What does it mean to be 'an independent'?It is time for many in our sector to re-examine their attitudes. We all know we are able to develop our stores in a way that maximises our advantages of local staff and local knowledge.

But where so many are found wanting is in their loyalty to their symbol or buying group fascia. The apparent attitude of some members leaves me thinking that being independent is more desirable than giving up a little in the pursuit of a greater benefit to themselves and others.

Most symbol groups bemoan the lack of loyalty and discipline. The manufacturers must rub their hands with glee while they greedily exploit the inability of all groupings to be able to offer any real commitment by their independent members. In the meantime, the price gap between the big guys and us gets ever wider.

The current debate regarding the proposed merger of Nisa-Today's and Costcutter would seem to me to be an excellent move. Interestingly, it involves two wholesale companies setting an example by giving up some of their independence.

Not being involved, I can only think that such a merger can only be of benefit to the combined groups, particularly in respect of their new buying power. It may be that one or two individuals will come out of it financially better off, but is that not what so many retailers do when they slip off to the cash and carry to make a few extra pence? So why is there an immediate outcry?

Nisa-Today's should think itself lucky that such a move is possible. If only we in Spar could anticipate any sort of merger that would result in a better, more centralised and disciplined national buying organisation supported by a committed and loyal membership. One can only despair that after 50 years we are still bedevilled by independents who buy their beer, milk or cigarettes wherever it suits them if they can save a few pence, while failing to see that if we all joined in and pulled together we would have the potential to put pressure on the manufacturers. We might then justifiably expect more realistic prices.