Stars News Shops' break­away from Spar at the beginning of the year has been relatively painless, according to Paul Siviter, MD of The Grocer Top 50 independent retailer.

He said all the company's 153 shops had enjoyed like-for-like sales growth of 2% in its second quarter, partly driven by cut-price deals on leading cigarette brands. However, he said: "The real challenge has been hanging on to money you put in the till in the first place. The thing that's done the most damage to the independent sector in the past few years is the continual hikes in the minimum wage."

He said the first quarter had been tough, with like-for-likes down 4% among its pure CTN outlets. The performance had not been helped by price deflation in the magazine sector.

Stars News Shops switched to Palmer & Harvey McLane for supplies of ambient goods and to Kerry Foods Direct to Store for chilled food in April. All stores switched to the Stars fascia at the same time.