Supermarket giants are to be given a clean bill of health by the all-party group of MPs considering whether more needs to be done to curb the power of the major multiples, The Grocer has learned.
The All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group, which is next month due to publish its report on the impact of the major grocery multiples on the high street by 2015, is to state that current market conditions are in favour of consumers and there is no evidence to back claims of “complete meltdown” in the independent sector.
However, the group may still decide to argue that it does not agree with the OFT’s current two-market view of grocery retailing, although a final decision has yet to be made. It is also set to flag up some concerns to government and the competition authorities surrounding planning issues and predatory pricing.
Key evidence during the series of pre-Christmas hearings included complaints about Tesco’s now infamous voucher campaign against Top 50 independent chain Proudfoot while Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco’s corporate representative, was grilled by group chairman Jim Dowd MP over why the retailer had flouted planning consent by overbuilding a store in Stockport by 20%.
A spokesman for the group of MPs told The Grocer this week that despite some evidence of wrongdoings it would be recommending that there should be no major changes to the way the major retailers were dealt with by government.
He also rubbished reports earlier this week that claimed the group was to recommend that stricter planning and fairer trading controls were needed.
“The group is not predicting the complete meltdown of independents and we will not be saying that superstores or any specific chains are to blame for the failure of independent stores,” he said. “At the moment our conclusion will be that superstores are successful because they provide an excellent service. No MP is going to say that people have got to stop using Tesco.”
However, the spokesman said some concerns would be expressed, not least about the future of wholesaling sector. “We do have concerns about the viability of the wholesale sector in certain areas. There are also issues around vouchering and planning consent.”
John Murphy, director general of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, said he was pleased that wholesalers looked set to get a key mention in the MPs’ final report. “If independents cannot get product from anywhere, then there is no such thing as competition.”
Meanwhile, the Association of Convenience Stores said that it was awaiting the final report “with interest”.
Simon Mowbray