>>even in tough times, the best independents will prosper


On first reading, IGD’s Convenience Retail Report makes for gloomy reading for independent retailers and the wholesalers who serve them. It suggests that while total convenience sales are booming, non-affiliated retailers are not sharing in that success. Store numbers have slumped over the past year, sales are down and the prognosis for the coming year is not great either.
Delve deeper into the data, however, and you will soon find plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Sure, the numbers of non-affiliated retailers will continue to decline over the next five years - but at a far slower rate than we have seen in the previous two years - leaving a core of better-performing operators more able to compete in the tougher times that clearly lie ahead.
At the same time, symbol groups continue to put in a great performance and will be running almost 14,000 stores generating £11.6bn of sales by 2010 - providing another boost for the independent sector.
All in all, I can take some comfort from these figures. Nobody says it will be easy for independents (whether symbol group retailers or not). Tesco, Sainsbury et al are formidable opponents with very deep pockets. Their presence in the sector is not only pushing up store prices, it has put pressure on independents to keep investing heavily in store standards to compete. But in a market predicted to enjoy strong sales growth in the next five years, this data supports those who argue that the best independents will continue to prosper.

You may notice that we have had a bit of fun with this week’s issue. Not only have we put together a Great Gadget Giveaway for you (see the scratchcard after page 50 to see if you’re a winner), but we have also teamed up with Stuff magazine to bring you the inside track on the very best gadgets around. In case you don’t know, Stuff is the top magazine when it comes to advice on gear and technology. So we are delighted to have joined forces with them to produce a guide to the best kit available both to help you do your job - and chill out. It’s a unique joint venture between a consumer mag and a business title, and you can check out the results on page 46.
reasons to be cheerful
stuff for you