Source: Email poll of wholesalers The credit crunch is dominating the news agenda right now and with the prospect of a recession looming on the horizon even the resilient grocery sector is likely to be affected. Last month Netto was named the UK's fastest-growing retailer and MD Richard Lancaster hailed 2008 as "the year of the value retailer". But while the discounters are rubbing their hands together, the impact of tougher times ahead seems far less clear for the wholesale sector. Wholesalers are split over whether the crunch will mean a downturn in sales or not. Almost half (43%) expect their sales to be hit this year, with 57% predicting that growth will not be affected. Last year Booker launched its Euroshopper discount range not just to help independents take on the big supermarkets but also to tackle the growing threat of the discounters. Last week chief executive Charles Wilson said the range was now bringing in sales of more than £400,000 a week. Bestway has also enjoyed strong sales of its Best-in range through strong promotional activity and sampling in its depots. Overall, 67% of the wholesalers who responded to our latest poll say they are planning to either introduce or extend their economy ranges this year, while 71% say they are confident independents can compete successfully on price with the multiples and discounters. "Our customer base has managed the downturn well so far and we think this may actually stop the consumer going to the multiples as they are likely to visit their local stores," says one cash & carry operator. "Independents can compete but obviously not on the complete range. Price is important but service will be the main differentiator." One fear for wholesalers it that they may not have developed their ranges in time to fully capitalise on the current economic climate. "We do have an economy range but we would like to extend it this year as it is currently very limited," says another wholesaler. The flip side of the credit crunch is that many commentators believe the food industry will do better in a downturn as people go for smaller treats. Instead of spending money on widescreen TVs and holidays, people will trade up to better-quality food and wine. In all, 86% of wholesalers say premium ranges will also prosper along with the everyday discount lines. However, one leading wholesaler warns that while this could work for beers and wines, wholesalers are still lagging behind the sophisticated premium ranges of the multiples and so risk losing out.