>>THE ISSUES THAT MATTER, FROM THE PEOPLE INVOLVED
This week we are celebrating the publication of our fourth Top 50 ranking of the best independent retail chains in the country. You will notice that there is a Top 50 theme running through this week’s issue - with our front cover, lead news story, Saturday Essay and a special 10-page section devoted to the stories behind the facts and figures contained in our survey.
As I said, this is the fourth time we have published our survey. After the events of last year - when we saw 13 chains exit the Top 50, mostly because they had been bought by a multiple or co-op - even we began to wonder how our 2005 ranking would shape up.
We need not have worried. This year’s survey contains plenty of good news: many of our Top 50 members have continued to expand; some exciting new retailers have joined our rankings; and the retailers we identified as our Ones to Watch in 2004 have lived up to expectations.
From discount stores to convenience stores to greengrocers, our Top 50 is a lively mix of entrepreneurial flair. It demonstrates that there is still a healthy, diverse and vibrant independent retail sector out there - despite the best efforts of the multiple retailers and the total failure of the so-called regulators in the OFT to call a halt to the aggressive expansion plans of the big boys in the convenience channel.
As we were putting the finishing touches to our survey, we heard that one of our Top 50 members had completed a major acquisition that strengthens its position in the south west. You will have read about Smile’s deal for Nugent Westward on p10 of this week’s issue. It’s great news, and rams home the point that there are plenty of excellent independent operators who are still investing in their businesses and reaping the rewards of all their hard work.
That’s the positive message I draw from our research for this week’s issue. As we explain in our ‘Battlefield Retail’ report on p36, there are plenty of challenges in the year ahead for all retail entrepreneurs - not least the encroachment of the multiples into the c-store sector. But our retailers don’t mind a scrap - as the story on p4 about Botterills shutting a Sainsbury Local shows. So well done to Botterills, to Smile and to all the retailers who feature in this year’s Top 50. You really are the true heroes of British retail.
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