The future for independents is bleak unless suppliers and wholesalers invest in the sector, delegates were warned this week. Outspoken Kent retailer Phil Brown said: "Unless the industry invests in training, sharing expertise and showing us how to be better retailers in all aspects of our business, there will be fewer rewards for you all to reap. "It is time for everyone to start thinking retail, not wholesale. My wholesalers need to be far more active and responsive to my needs. "Suppliers must provide the sector with brands and price points so we can deliver you real volume. "The freehold value of rural shops is generally worth more than the business so it is no wonder so many village stores are closing. The saddest thing is that when one of these shops closes down it will never be reopened or replaced, depriving the community of an asset most take for granted. "But if shopping environment and product range is acceptable and there is enough customer support, together with some positive backing from wholesalers and manufacturers, this endangered backbone of communities across the UK will not only endure but will increase its share of the market place." He added: "I want to work with wholesalers and suppliers who are as passionate about the business as I am and who can provide me, not only with the widest possible selection, but also with strong on-going promotions and access to competitive special purchases. "You only have to look at the shelves of the major multiples and specialists and see the diversity of products and activities available. That is what we are missing and require." {{NEWS }}