Promoting Responsible Community Retailing by Lobbying, Communication, Networking and Advice.

Ensuring a sustainable and prosperous convenience industry in Scotland

SGF Conference 2011 Offers Delegates Food for Thought

The SGF 2011 Annual Conference was a great success, attended by over 300 delegates representing 1500 stores. Held on the 1st and 2nd April at the Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro, the event was filled with thought provoking speaker presentations addressing the theme of the conference “Progressive, Proactive, Professional”.

Speakers at the Saturday morning business session included Jonathan Rons, him!; Professor Leigh Sparks, Stirling University; Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland Political Editor; David Potts, NOM Dairy; David Sands, David Sands Ltd; Yvonne Fennell, Camelot; Jonathan James, James Graven & Sons; Martin Stepek, Scottish Family Business Association; Tom Johnston, Young and Partners and Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium.

Opening the session, SGF President, Graeme Knowles spoke of the important part SGF plays, through lobbying activity, in ensuring a sustainable and prosperous convenience store industry in Scotland and outlined key policy recommendations in SGF’s 2011 Local Shop Manifesto.

Professor Leigh Sparks and Jonathon Rons offered their expert insight into the importance of retailing in Scotland, identifying drivers for change, the impact of the economic slowdown on retailing and consumer confidence and the growing need for retailers to understand their customers in order to succeed.

Brian Taylor, Political Editor of BBC Scotland entertained delegates with his eloquent overview of the current state of politics and the economic challenges facing a new Scottish Government in the run up to the Scottish Parliament elections on the 5th May.

Speaking about innovation, leading SGF member David Sands impressed delegates with the story of the development of David’s Kitchen. David described the need to develop real partnerships with suppliers and the benefits of sourcing locally and involving local communities in the development of your business. David Potts and Yvonne Fennell discussed innovative products and services they offer or are currently in development which will increase footfall, drive consumer demand and offer a point of difference for customers.

Many convenience store retailers are family businesses. Jonathan James spoke with pride about his family business, James Graven and Sons, established in 1860, and provided an amusing and interesting presentation into the care and thought in terms of planning, sourcing locally and working with the local community which went into the successful development of a new retail site. Martin Stepek spoke of the importance of family businesses to the Scottish economy and referred to family challenges not business issues which often bring family and businesses down. In a thought provoking presentation he recalled the challenges he had faced in his family business and the importance of putting in place the correct structures as the family and business grow in order to prevent catastrophic waste of decades of work.

Closing the session on family business, Tom Johnston of Young and Partners spoke of the need to ensure a family business has the right legal and financial advisers available to offer reliable and honest advice.

The conference keynote speaker, Stephen Robertson of the BRC, referred to retailing as the engine room of Scotland. He commented on a number of retail trends emerging as consumers continue to cut back on non-essentials combined with increasing inflation and low consumer confidence impact on sales. He emphasised the continuing importance of the high street in retail and referred to figures which suggest Scottish retailers have weathered the storm better than their English and Welsh counterparts with all the major retail centres seeing vacancy rates below the national average.

Commenting John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said:

“These are challenging times for retailers and consumers. Confidence will return but retailers will have be in the right shape and place to take advantage of it. Having listened to the speakers share their passion and enthusiasm for the industry with conference delegates, I am confident, when the time is right, retailers who attended the conference will be best placed to harness new opportunities.”