Last month, the Competition Commission's inquiry into the UK groceries market gave the major multiples a clean bill of health. Much to the dismay of smaller shops it concluded that, despite receiving a considerable body of evidence that the competitive pressure on c-store operators was intense, it "did not find that these concerns were substantiated".
The inquiry "failed local shops", claims the Association of Convenience Stores. It "favours giants and does nothing for long-term consumer choice", adds the Federation of Wholesale Distributors. But what do independent retailers think?
One hundred per cent of those polled in The Grocer's survey believe the commission's recommendations will adversely affect the independent sector. A massive 89% also disagree with the commission's conclusion that the number of c-stores has not declined in recent years, with the same percentage also disagreeing that the entry of Tesco and Sainsbury's into the sector has not been anti-competitive.
"The commission has been anti-independents," says one retailer. "It has not thought of the independent stores that are shutting down in large numbers. It has not got its data right."
Another adds: "It only appears to have looked at competition between the majors. It has not considered the effect on independent grocers of a Tesco Express opening down the road."
However, others believe independent stores will still be able to compete against their larger rivals. "Many privately owned stores are very good and I do not believe they will be adversely affected," says one retailer. "Privately run businesses will continue to perform well and grow."
Meanwhile, they welcomed a recent debate during which MPs criticised the Competition Commission's report and recommended that more should be done to create a level playing field between supermarkets and smaller shops.
As one retailer says: "We need to keep lobbying government to put a stop to companies taking a large share of the market."