In its Emerging Thinking published in January, the Competition Commission inquiry said that it was concerned with whether any of the supermarkets could get into such a strong position, either nationally or locally, that other retailers would be unable to compete effectively.
Convenience Store's research reveals that almost 60% of the 100 respondents felt that it was unlikely that the Commission's report would produce a ruling that would help independents better compete with the multiples. None felt that a positive outcome was "very likely", with only 12% believing that the ruling would be "fairly likely" to be in their favour.
In addition, 77% felt that the government does not understand the difficulties independents face in trying to compete with the big chains. The survey also showed that 59% of retailers would like the authorities to address aggressive local pricing, and 52% would like below-cost selling by the multiples to be further investigated.
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said that it was concerning that retailers were pessimistic about the outcome of the inquiry. "The big message to come from this survey is that it is clear there are concerns with the government not understanding the difficulties local shops face," he told Convenience Store. "The message to retailers is that now is the prime opportunity to change that. You can make that difference by providing evidence of local predatory pricing activities you have witnessed, and any evidence of buying price differentials. Evidence of local bullying tactics in planning should also be recorded."
ACS representatives will meet Commission staff this month to discuss the accumulated evidence, and in May the association and its partners face a second hearing with the full panel of Commissioners.
Survey results at a glance
75% of respondents were aware that the supermarket chains are currently being investigated by the Competition Commission
31% said the inquiry was "not likely at all" to make a ruling that would help independents compete better
28% said a positive result was "not very likely"
12% said it was "fairly likely" the ruling would favour independents
77% of those surveyed said the government did not understand the difficulties faced by independents trying to compete with the big chains
52% called on the authorities to address below-cost selling by the multiples
59% wanted action on aggressive local pricing tactics
45% would like to see the planning system overhauled
18% called for measures to combat rising shop overheads