Independent retailers need to do more to communicate their problems to their local MPs, according to Jerry Marwood, managing director of Spar UK.

Speaking at the Scottish Grocers' Federation conference last week, Marwood urged retailers to make a date with their local MP to discuss local issues. A show of hands revealed only a handful of delegates had ever met with their representative at Westminster.

Retailers should invite their MP to see how their business worked and maintain contact, Marwood said. That way, when an issue arose, retailers could demonstrate how their business would be affected.

Marwood also urged retailers to work together to drive down costs.

"The way to reduce costs is to make it easier for products to get from A to B," he said. "Retailers need to share services and collaborate. When Sainsbury's and Asda admit they are working together in the supply chain, don't you think it's about time we looked at it differently?"

Spar UK is already working with the Co-operative Group in a buying alliance to reduce the cost of own-label goods.

Crime was another topic on the conference agenda. The SGF's annual crime survey of 947 stores in Scotland indicated there were 78,257 customer thefts in 2006 at a cost of £3.8m, with only 14% of incidents reported.

There were also 263 incidents of physical violence against staff and 5,099 threats of violence.

The value of card fraud rose 54% on last year's survey to £143,425.

"We were shocked at the staggering rise in card fraud despite the introduction of Chip and PIN, which was supposed to stamp out credit and debit card misuse," said John Drummond, Scottish Grocers' Federation chief executive.

"SGF will be undertaking further research with our members before seeking urgent talks with card issuers to tackle the problem."