The proposed £1.57bn takeover of Somerfield was agreed in July and is currently being looked at by the OFT. Its decision is due in the next few weeks. Costain, who defines “core” as stores with weekly sales of £20,000 or more, said as well as a reduction in competition the merger would create new barriers to entry for independents.
The Co-op Group already wielded a 5% buying power advantage over independents, he claimed, which gave it the ability to outbid small rivals for store sites by a factor of 100%.
“The regulators’ view of the convenience and top-up sector is incomplete,” said Costain. “This is why even now so soon after the latest Commission inquiry, there needs to be another inquiry into the convenience sector.”