he spat between Nisa-Today's and its largest member, Costcutter, has made the buying group stronger than ever, its members have claimed.

Nisa-Today's this week held its annual retail conference in Portugal. Members said the group was more "united" than ever, just three weeks after Costcutter chairman Colin Graves publicly resigned from the Nisa board.

Nisa chief Neil Turton explained to members why the group's board felt there would have been conflicts of interest had Graves stayed and stressed he wanted to retain Costcutter as a member.

"There was a very good spirit," said Turton. "People said it was like a return to the good old days and the feeling of the membership as a family. Perhaps the Costcutter thing has united them; maybe the large surplus payment has played a part. It was a nice atmosphere and a positive agenda."

One member said: "I feel tremendous excitement about the group's future. The conference allowed a major bonding process to take place between members and executives."

The buying group also presented its Christmas trading plans as well as outlining distribution changes for 2011. DHL takes over distribution from Bibby Line Group in April.