Independent retailers generally choose that path because they want to be their own boss, but we all know it is tricky to make it entirely on your own. Behind every good retailer is a good wholesaler, and the fortunes of those sectors are inextricably interlinked.

In the space of a week recently I heard both Charles Wilson of Booker and Dennis Evans of Blakemore's talking in glowing terms about the success that can be achieved by retailers when working in partnership with their wholesaler. Both reported that their retail customers are doing well, but both had concerns, too.

Evans, as you have read on the page opposite, maintains that suppliers are still not giving a company as large as Blakemore the buying terms that they deserve. Wilson, who has worked hard to get Booker's borrowings to a comfortable level, warned about the amount of debt still remaining in the wholesale industry - a whopping £2.5bn. With that level of drag and the market both highly competitive and enduringly low margin, a big-name casualty in the wholesale arena is almost inevitable, he says.

Improved support from suppliers would make that collapse slightly less likely. National Independents' Week saw a tremendous turnout from manufacturers to get into local stores and help out. While this was welcome, we all know that the trade needs more than just an occasional visit.

So now is the time for suppliers to evaluate properly the strengths and opportunities in the independent trade and the vital wholesale network that supplies it, and to ensure that the products, prices and promotions available are at least as good as the multiples'.

Behind every good retailer there is a good wholesaler, and it follows therefore that behind every good wholesaler is a good group of suppliers. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.


A week is a long time

The political situation is in such turmoil that as I write I can't be 100% confident that we will have the same Prime Minister by the time you get to read it.

The government has so far proved resistant to attempts to remove the tobacco display ban from the Health Bill, but are now being weakened every day.

The Conservatives this week tabled an amendment calling for the proxy sale of cigarettes by adults to children to be made illegal. Convenience Store and others have been calling for this for some time, and we urge you to keep the pressure up on the government by supporting this amendment.