On previous occasions I have alluded to my affection for North Wales, and we were there again at the weekend. While there I took to thinking about areas of challenge and opportunity for independent retailers and began to realise just how interconnected some of these are. My favourite local shop in Morfa Nefyn has had the ambition to relocate from a small convenience site without a licence to a much larger petrol forecourt, in doing so developing ramshackle workshops into a modern store.

Steve Parfett

A recent range addition in the new store is a family size lasagne for £10. It is cooked by a store employee, has generous portions and great ingredients and flavour. This adds to the best ever mince pies at Christmas (again baked at home by a staff member), two options of local milk as well as ‘Independent’ from their symbol group, local beer from Nefyn brewery, local cheese, yoghurt and coleslaw.

In addition to this they have retained their original strengths with a proper butchery counter (one of the proprietors is a qualified butcher) with ‘real’ meat butchered on the premises, which looks like it came from an animal, is local, and tastes fantastic, together with bara brith baked freshly on site regularly. There is a small café on site and a fresh pizza offer to take away.

Another who has taken the development challenge is (Parfetts customer) Paul Keys in Sheffield, originally operating a traditional CTN, who has retained that part of his trade while committing time to stocking local craft beers.

It seems to me there is a real sweet spot in developing a differentiated fresh offer, combined with becoming known for local sourcing and adding a foodservice offer. The uniqueness of staff members who also cook product for customers, a different range of fresh or licensed products from the supermarket norm, and a true personal feel to a store have to be true customer benefits.

Wholesalers can help in these areas and we have numerous examples in our depots from Little Valley brewery beers (Hebden Bridge), Riley’s Manchester sausages, Robinson’s beers (Stockport) Jones Pies from Halifax, Adkins cakes and Chamber’s Quiches (Somercotes) to five-star bakery morning goods (Liverpool).

What we can’t and shouldn’t do is the ultra-local opportunity. Wholesalers and particularly symbol groups need to offer space for customers to pursue these sales without worrying about onerous percentage of spend requirements. This is the opportunity for retailers to put their own stamp on the area and what they offer and, importantly, find a different way to develop these important areas of profitable sales growth.

Steve Parfett is chairman of AG Parfett & Sons