Independent retailers say they will participate in the Competition Commission's investigation into the grocery market, despite Office of Fair Trading chief executive John Fingleton's advice to steer clear.

A recent telephone poll of The Grocer's Top 50 members revealed that half were planning to submit some form of evidence on pricing, planning and/or buying power.

A further 25% said that they would be happy to contribute if called upon, while 25% said that they wanted no involvement at all.

Asked which issues were most critical to them, half said buying power, while the other half agreed that they were all equally weighted.

Despite the competition posed by the top multiples, none of our Top 50 members had ever purchased land with a view to stopping a rival building a store on it, they insisted.

A retailer at one northern-based independent chain said: “The big issue for us, however, is that we are unable to pay the price for land that is paid by the major multiples.

“This forces us to be light on our feet and highly creative in order to deliver attractive schemes that please planners and public alike.”

Another retailer said that the competition was becoming so fierce that it was a real struggle to afford the price of land.

Gazumping is becoming a common practice, and one that is even catching out some of the larger retail chains, as Peter Head, joint MD of Anglian Convenience Stores, had the misfortune to find out three times in a row.

Three quarters of the retailers that we spoke to said that they would never consider getting involved in what has been dubbed the 'black art' of buying up land to squeeze out the competition, although 25% said that if they had the money to put aside, “which we don't”, they might chew the option over.

The Competition Commission's investigation is expected to last for about two years.

Asked whether they thought that the outcome would affect them, 75% said that they believed the outcome would probably be neutral for them.

Only one quarter of respondents said that they did not expect the investigation to have a direct impact on their business.