Rent increases are a reality for 75% of retailers who rent their shops, according to our latest telephone poll of independents. And a rent review is due for a further 20% of those questioned.

Although two thirds of independents quizzed by The Grocer own their shops, rent increases are still having an impact on the rest.

"It's one thing after another at the moment, what with increases in my electricity and gas bills too," says one retailer in the Midlands. "My rent rise is just another thing on the never-ending list of bills."

This survey confirms the feelings expressed by retailers in Crawley, who are protesting about rent increases proposed by Grays Jenkins, the surveyor hired by their landlord, Crawley Borough Council ('Independents face massive rent hikes', The Grocer, 1 July, p8). Some faced a previous rent review in 2001, but it fell through, so they fear they will now have to pay increases backdated over five years.

In our survey, nearly everyone is facing a rent increase of up to 50% and a very unlucky 6% are faced with the prospect of their rent doubling in the coming months. More than one retailer is pondering whether it is worth continuing in business.

"I have thought about selling my shop over the past year more than at any other time I have had it," says one retailer in the north east. "The trouble is, it's worth next to nowt compared to a few years ago."

Others, too, were caught in this trap of not being able to retire from the business because their shops were not worth as much as they had hoped for. "I need a decent amount if I'm going to be able to retire and so I just have to carry on and hope it gets better," said a retailer in the south west.

At the same time, thousands of independent retailers are campaigning to scrap quarterly rent reviews and bring in a monthly system. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is leading the charge, claiming that the practice of demanding shop rents three months in advance every quarter is putting too much pressure on retailers.

We asked retailers who rented their shops if they would prefer to pay rent monthly rather than quarterly but only 56% say they would prefer to pay monthly while 44%

were happy with the current quarterly system.

"I can easily budget for the quarterly rent bill at the moment, as it matches in with my utility and telephone bills," says a retailer in the north west. "I don't want the bill every month."?