More and more independent retailers are joining symbol groups according to IGD's latest figures there are 2% more symbol group affiliated stores operating in the UK than last year, and the number of independent convenience stores is down 5% on the previous year. The group option may be more popular than ever, but is it the right path for everyone?

We at C-Store love a good debate so we've taken a committed independent and a loyal symbol group retailer and put them head-to-head to duke it out in a war of words to discuss whether it's better to go your own way or to be part of something bigger.

The competitors are raring to go; the bell's about to ring. We want a good clean fight as each person makes the case for their corner: is it better to join a symbol group, or are there more advantages to remaining truly independent?

Lesley Brown

Lesley and her husband William have been running Frankmarsh Stores in Barnstaple, Devon, for nine years. This year they received national media coverage for their work in cleaning drugs out of their area. They are C-Store Champions and won the Convenience Store Zero Tolerance Award in 2008. The couple believe that remaining at the heart of the community is key for convenience stores.

Barrie Seymour

Barrie is a Londis retailer with a store in Liversedge, West Yorkshire. Barrie is also a C-Store Champion and has been part of the Londis symbol group for 14 years, as well as having several years' experience as an independent retailer. He was previously the Londis National Retailer Council Chairman and has won numerous industry awards for his professionalism and high store standards.