No-one saw it coming. This week, northern supermarket chain Booths teamed up with Waitrose to form a buying alliance to negotiate better prices for branded goods. It’s not the first time Booths has surprised the industry. In July, it parted company with Nisa-Today’s to “develop its unique grocery offering”.

Maybe Booths’ offer wasn’t as unique as it thought because now news of the alliance is out, the partnership makes sense. Both retailers support local suppliers and attract shoppers for their upmarket products rather than their branded ranges.

But what does the alliance say about the state of the independent grocery sector that one of the leading indies has had to jump into bed with a multiple retailer to allow it to compete on a more even footing? Times are tough for independents, but could survival mean burying the hatchet to strike up new-found friendships across the industry?

Could we see frozen food discounter Farmfoods teaming up with Iceland, or Harry Tuffins shaking hands with arch-rival Tesco? Or is this simply a new way for multiples to swallow good independent retailers whole?