The Competition Commission's grocery inquiry team has begun the unenviable task of making sense of the piles of information it has received since its investigation started last May.

A spokesman said now the team had completed the first round of face-to face hearings - culminating in a trip to Northern Ireland last week (see below, right) - it would be "getting stuck into" all the written submissions it had received before publishing its emerging thinking.

The submissions will include thousands of pages of information from the major retailers containing responses to the Commission's huge questionnaire, which posed more than 130 questions.

It is the industry's worst-kept secret that emerging thinking is unlikely to be published until the New Year, although the Commission insisted this week that it was still aiming to produce it on schedule next month.

If it were not ready for publication before Christmas, it would almost certainly slip into January because the Commission would not want to release it between Christmas and New Year. "It's felt it wouldn't be a good idea to publish then, but hopefully it wouldn't be long after that," said the spokesman.

A delay of a few weeks would probably have little impact on the inquiry timetable. The Commission has two years to complete its investigation, but said it plans to wrap things up by next October, leaving the inquiry team room for manoeuvre.