Here’s a question: for every spotty youth Sainsbury’s employs in a c-store, how many independent retailers go bust? So asked Esther B in a post on late last year as we revealed the retailer’s plans to nearly double its convenience estate by the end of 2015.

Our best answer is 0.6, arrived at by dividing total 2012 unaffiliated indie closures by Sainsbury’s Local openings and dividing by 22 - the average members of staff (spotty or otherwise) you’ll find on the books at a Sainsbury’s Local. But a much more telling statistic is that for each of the 221 new c-stores opened by the major multiples last year, 3.7 indies sought refuge by joining symbol groups [Grocery Retail Structure 2012].

The strategy appears to be paying off. Just 33% of symbol group retailers polled for The Grocer by Retail Attack saw a decline in Christmas trade in 2012, compared with 58% of unaffiliated indies. More encouragingly still, only 18% expect things to worsen over the next year and 33% predict they’ll get better. Unaffiliated indies, on the other hand, are pretty pessimistic: 43% expect business to worsen and just 23% believe it will improve.

In this bumper fascia special, we ask if symbol groups should be offering their retailers more innovative fascias - like the mobile shop above, for instance we hear how one retailer has broken the mould and we explore why the symbol groups are doing so well in the face of economic uncertainty and mounting competition from the multiples.


New looks: How good could Spar, Londis and Premier look? We redesign their fascias.

Hedged bets: Budgens Hedge End: a blueprint for the future of indie retailing?

Status symbols: Why symbol groups are thriving despite competition from the mults