More than half of the independent retailers quizzed by The Grocer are so concerned about the risk of losing their independence that they have not joined or have no intention of joining a symbol group.
The exclusive survey found that while the majority of non-symbol group members believe that joining would definitely enable them to develop their stores better, they did not want to give up their independence.
"I don't fancy them sticking their noses into my business," said one shop owner in Nottingham. Another felt that they'd rather stay independent to enable them to buy stock from suppliers of their choice. "I have quite a few specialist suppliers these days on breads and dairy products and I want to expand this part of the business as I see fit," said one retailer in Northern Ireland.
A shop owner in Birmingham added: "I bought my shop because I wanted to be my own boss and I don't want to answer to anyone."
These findings fly in the face of recent IGD figures that revealed growth in symbol group-affiliated retailers. IGD's Convenience Retailing report published last month showed that during 2005 symbol group store numbers had grown by 5.1% [The Grocer, 6 May, p4].
The four out of ten shop owners that were part of a symbol group were mostly delighted with the benefits.
"It would be much more difficult to compete if I wasn't part of a group," said one retailer in Edinburgh. "It gives us great support and guides us rather than dictates to us."
A Shropshire-based symbol group member felt she got very good deals, great merchandising materials and lots of support on shop redevelopments.
Interestingly, 70% of retailers felt they could compete on price and promotions against major supermarkets' convenience store formats even if they could not compete against traditional supermarket stores. "My price-marked packs show that I am not ripping off my customers and my packs are often cheaper than those at a nearby Tesco Express," said a shop owner in Hampshire.
"People think Tesco is always cheaper but that isn't the case," said a retailer in Leeds. "I can compete with it on price and often on promotions but I can't match the range of products it offers," he continued.
Three out of ten shop owners felt they could not compete with promotions run in supermarkets' convenience stores. "I can't usually compete on beer and it will probably be even worse during the World Cup," said a London retailer.