Independent retailers – small and medium-sized enterprises – run their businesses in various ways. One of the most successful ways is to join a group that operates at wholesale level. Groups take different forms: from simple associative buying groups to more complex participative structures. They can operate regionally, nationally and internationally. Whatever their format, a group is an asset for both the food and non-food sectors, from textiles to pharmaceuticals and electronics.
Apart from joint purchasing, groups support their members in several ways, including:
- by acting as a hub for retail innovation and deploying state of the art technologies for better supply chain efficiency and the best customer service;
- by building modern and environmentally friendly distribution centres that stimulate urban and rural regeneration;
- by providing access to finance to their individual members when banks do not;
- by owning facilities such as factories for private label goods, fishing fleets, logistics companies, farms and laboratories;
- by producing advertising campaigns;
- by distributing best retail and wholesale practices from around the world, including in the sphere of corporate social responsibility.
All of this allows sustainable, competitive SMEs to thrive. Small retail entrepreneurs can retain their independence and successfully compete with large competitors in their localities across every format, from convenience to supermarket to hypermarket. Profits are invested back into local communities through local spending but also via the sponsorship of local events, teams and community projects. This “local touch” extends to stocking local products as well as promoting local and regional development. The consumer is the ultimate beneficiary as these characteristics facilitate consumer choice, respond to consumer expectations and lead to lower consumer prices.