Stefan Magnusson MD, The Light Agency

Says: Independent retailers need to participate in loyalty schemes to build on the loyalty of shoppers in their communities.

The multiples attract consumers with free parking, lower prices and loyalty schemes, but independents play up their familiar service, convenient location and better opening hours. It would be profitable for independents to shore up this loyalty with a scheme that promotes their specific benefits. For example, they could offer deals on convenience or impulse products such as ready meals or confectionery. They could also reward shoppers who visit the store frequently rather than for how much they spend to emphasise the convenience aspect of the store.

New customers would be attracted if independents could communicate effectively that regular use of loyalty schemes makes them price-competitive with multiples, which would entice people to try them. Schemes such as Shop Scan Save at PayPoint enable even the smallest independent to target its own customers with suitable offers as the technology identifies where consumers are most likely to redeem them.

Diana Bird Joint founder, Wedge

Says: Loyalty cards are a market-proven way for businesses of all types and sizes to lift sales. The success of loyalty cards for national chains prove their effectiveness, but for independents the benefits run deeper.

Maintaining and developing customer loyalty is crucial for survival against the multiples. If they are well run, loyalty cards create a powerful bond with customers. Businesses tell us their revenues increase when they sign up, and achieve more repeat purchases. Businesses also become part of the wider Wedge network, which acts as a powerful joint marketing force to promote independents.

By reminding shoppers of the vital role independent stores play in their local communities, Wedge brings a sense of loyalty based not just on the direct financial rewards - a free cup of coffee or a 15% discount - but on deeper social needs. We all love getting free goodies, but with growing consumer awareness of ethical issues, true loyalty runs deeper.

Choice and diversity are crucial too, and with Wedge shoppers are not tied to one store. They can access the diversity of what local high street shops can offer.

Steve Wyllie MD, Savvy UK

Says: Major UK retailers invest in loyalty schemes because they know they deliver increased sales and profits, attract and retain customers and drive spend-per-visit. Given that it is hard for independents to offer equivalent rewards there would seem to be no way they could compete.

However, many people still want to feel part of a local community and support local businesses. Independents must give them a reason to do so and loyalty schemes are a powerful incentive.

Independent businesses have an often under-valued asset - their relationship with their customers. Loyalty schemes send a strong message about how important customers are to the business. This alone often prompts changes in spending patterns.

There are also some innovative, well-established loyalty schemes in Haslemere, Ashbourne and Frodsham. They are based on shopping locally but offer value for money and flexibility. These schemes have shown that groups of independent retailers can provide attractive, tailored rewards and work in partnership with each other, while at the same time advertising their local businesses.