Small shops leaders are more hopeful the Competition Commission's groceries inquiry will change its mind over the state of the independent retail sector after it emerged it would be delaying its final report until April.

In its provisional findings, the commission said independent c-store numbers were rising despite the growth of the multiples' c-stores. Since then, the ACS has provided the commission with fresh evidence to refute this.

A commission spokesman confirmed the inquiry was still looking into the issue of c-store numbers. "We welcome the latest delay as there remain issues the commission has to work through," said ACS boss James Lowman. Nonetheless, it remains unlikely the commission will make major u-turns at this stage - it still plans to publish a remedies statement early next month, when it had also planned to publish its final report.

The ACS has also commissioned a survey asking consumers if the government should liberalise planning to allow more supermarkets. The poll indicated 74% of people did not think the system should be changed. Two thirds said out-of-town supermarkets harmed town centres.