Small retailers' leaders are to create a business model designed to determine the effect of the major multiples on unaffiliated c-stores.

The move is part of the Association of Convenience Stores' submission to the Competition Commission inquiry into the grocery market - and is designed to plug what the ACS believes is a gap in the Commission's research efforts.

ACS director of public affairs James Lowman said: "The Competition Commission is currently at the fact-gathering stage. The big four have received a questionnaire and a slightly amended version is going to other, smaller groups.

"They believe they will capture the data they need from this. But below these companies you have got a rump of independent retailers - 20,000 unbranded stores - and it's very hard to get information from them.

"We have told the Commission that there is no point in sending over a questionnaire to them because they just won't get it answered. But we are concerned at the prospect that unbranded retailers won't be participating in the inquiry as that would be a missed opportunity."

The ACS plans to divide its model into eight segments, based primarily on turnover but also on proximity to rival stores. It reckons it will need to populate the model with at least three retailers per segment, although it hopes to attract more.

Lowman said: "If we get the data into the model then we can play different tunes on it. We are mostly interested in the effect of the multiples because that's where we believe practices such as predatory pricing and buyer power are being brought into effect."

Lowman said the ACS was in discussions with the Commission regarding its model. "They have not discouraged us from doing it," he added.

A spokesman for the Commission said: "It's an interesting idea but we need to sort out whether it's going to be giving us the information we need."

Last month we revealed that the Commission was examining ways to extract commercial information from small retailers who own as a little as one store (The Grocer, 22 July, p6).questions, questions

Suppliers and wholesalers should brace themselves for a loud thud on their doormats sometime in the near future. The Competition Commission said this week that it was in the throes of developing questionnaires for them to answer.

A draft document is set to go out to selected manufacturers. A spokesman said: "We'll shortly contact a number of suppliers with a preliminary questionnaire. The aim is to understand the issues and the feedback will be used to design a full survey that will be sent out later in the year."

Wholesalers will not be consulted in advance.

The spokesman promised that the questionnaires would be "considerably shorter" than the one sent to retailers, which contained more than 100 questions.