Suppliers gave damning opinions of the state of the independent sector at the FWD conference last week, and told wholesalers to help indies improve merchandising techniques.

Speaking at the event, Britvic business unit director Kate Fletcher called for wholesalers to support independents by focusing more on retail outlets than their depots. "They're not crap because they want to be. They're crap because they don't know any differently," she said.

She described independents' buying strategy as "hand to mouth" and based on what they could afford on the day. "They don't benefit from much of the insight and information about best retailing and business practices. We have a massive opportunity to support indies on education and creating store and category blueprints."

PepsiCo senior sales director Jonathan Kyle expressed frustration that more than three-quarters of independent retailers he visited on a recent field trip did not stock Walkers Crinkles, the company's biggest launch this year.

"I wanted to maximise sales during the time we had it on TV but it was only in four stores out of 20," he said. By contrast, 20 out of 20 supermarkets he visited stocked the product. "That makes it hard to justify to my boss why I want more investment to go into the sector," he warned.

Another missed opportunity was flagged up by Molson Coors sales director John Heynen. He contrasted the displays in Starbucks about local community projects with the absence of similar displays in many independent c-stores. "Think about the stupidity of that," he said. "A massive corporation based in Seattle has something around the local community and local retailers aren't doing enough to reflect their position."

Meanwhile, a survey of independent retailers by Him! revealed that only 27% could name the top-selling alcohol brand. And although 86% said it was important to stock "key sellers", only 20% said they followed the core range advertised by their wholesaler.