The grocery industry is confident in the enduring importance of bricks-and-mortar stores but split over the future of large supermarkets, an IGD poll has revealed.

Six in 10 delegates at IGD’s Big Debate on Tuesday believed supermarkets remained an important showcase for grocery brands. A quarter were neutral and only 10% believed digital had made stores redundant in a poll at the event, which attracted 400 attendees from companies including Tesco, Mars and Coca-Cola.

But it wasn’t all good news for bricks-and-mortar supermarkets. When asked whether large-format stores could win back shoppers, only 52% said yes and the remaining 48% were pessimistic.

The uncertainty was at odds with the confidence expressed by Sainsbury’s and Tesco chiefs in large stores at the event. Tesco UK and ROI CEO Matt Davies was defiant that formats such as its Extra stores would prove successful. “Large stores were written off because they were going backwards in terms of like-for-likes. But we could make progress in these stores, so don’t write off the main shops,” he said.

Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe also expressed enthusiasm for the chain’s recently refurbished 61,000 sq ft superstore in Nine Elms, which houses Argos, Habitat and Sushi Gourmet concessions. Last week, he hosted a press tour of the store, at which he described it as a “window into the new world” of the Sainsbury’s business.

Co-op commercial director Michael Fletcher said small stores, in fact, were the hardest to manage. He stressed that, unlike large stores, ranges needed to be kept small but carefully tailored to local populations. “Put your best people in your small stores,” he argued.