When asked about current trading levels, 24% said sales were up on this time last year, whereas last month the figure was 21%. This time round, 45% said sales were the same and 31% believed they were worse. The respective figures last month were 47% and 32%. Looking ahead three months, 35% ­ the same figure as last month ­ expected business to improve, while 50% predicted sales would remain static, with 15% believing they would be worse. There was more optimism on profits. Last month, 18% thought net margins were on the increase but this time, 24% of those questioned said margins were improving. The picture was completed with 41% claiming margins were static, while 35% said they were declining. When it came to business investment, 21% said they would be stepping it up, which was up from 17% last month, while 42% said their store investment would remain the same and 37% claimed it would be less. There was a bullish result on the question of store perception. An overwhelming 92% of respondents thought their customers view them as price competitive. Price remains the most important consideration when retailers choose their wholesaler, as 81% of those questioned pointed out. Only 10% said they put range selection ahead of price. Although this month's research was taken at the height of the summer when confectionery sales are expected to fall, 79% put the impulse product in their top three product categories, with cigarettes on 64%, newspapers and magazines 54%, soft drinks 45% and alcohol 25% ­ although some of those questioned did not have an off licence. Just over half said they couldn't point to any special offer that caught their eye. {{GROCER CLUB }}