The odds may be stacked against independents at the moment, but sales, profits, store and staff numbers are all up. Beth Phillips looks at the main winners and losers

Independents never have it easy. This time last year, the sector was being challenged by energy price rises, greater employment regulation and increasing competition from multiples. Twelve months on and indies are facing up to further employment laws, a business rate increase, a cigarette display ban and increasing competition from multiples. Oh, and the small matter of an apocalyptic recession. 

It’s therefore no surprise to report that, in The Grocer’s latest Top 50 ranking of independents, average profit margins of the 38 companies for which profit figures were obtainable rose from 2.2% in 2007 to 2.3% in 2008. And many of the results were filed before the economic downturn gathered
pace last autumn…