The survey showed that 27% of those questioned said sales had improved, compared to 29% who answered that way last month. However, this time round 50% said business was much the same, whereas only 38% responded that way last month. Additionally, 23% said sales had declined, but last month's figure was 33%. When it came to predicting turnover for the next three months, 55% expected an upturn whereas, last month, only 30% thought that would be the case. There were 38% who believed sales would remain static over the next quarter, while 7% expected a downturn. The respective figures for last month were 41% and 29%. The news on net margins wasn't so good with only 17% reporting an increase in this area, compared to 25% last month. Additionally, 51% said their margins remained unchanged, while 32% reported a drop. For the second month running there was a drop in the number of independents planning to investmore in the business. Only 20% planned to spend more, compared to 25% said they would way last month. However, 46% said they would spend the same, but 34% claimed they would spend less. There was encouraging news on the question of customer perception of the small store sector, with 91% believing they are seen as competitive, compared to 73% who believed this to be the case last month. The majority of those questioned ­ 62% -- felt their wholesaler was good on price, range and stock levels, while 18% believed their wholesaler to be very good, but 20% said wholesalers were poor. Confectionery, cigarettes, soft drinks and alcohol were again reported to be the best selling product categories but, this month, 49% of those questioned made a specific mention of crisps. Carling, Stella Artois and Tennent's lager, and Cadbury's four bars for 99p, were seen as the best promoted brands. {{GROCER CLUB }}