The Independent Retail Steering Group (IRSG) has called for the government to appoint a retail regulator to prevent large chains from abusing a position of market dominance.
The call comes as part of the group's submission to the Competition Commission's inquiry into the grocery market, which includes a number of "constructive suggestions" to improve regulation in the market. These include a regionally focused planning appeals system, a compulsory code of practice for supermarkets and a 'store of reference' concept for big chains to prevent them charging different prices in different stores to force out local competition.
The IRSG comprises the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN), Rural Shops Alliance (RSA), Booker and campaign group Local Works, backed up by technical support from retail industry guru Professor Alan Hallsworth of Surrey University.
The NFRN's Colin Finch, a newsagent from South Wales, said: "In 10 years we have lost 13,800 independent stores, and they haven't all been bad business people. A lot of the closures are a result of the market being opened up to a predator.
"The Commission doesn't want loads of individual submissions, so we are acting as a backstop for the independent trade. We know about the market through bitter experience, and we want people who have been a casualty of all this to contact us."
The idea of a retail regulator was first put forward as part of the Parliamentary Small Shops Group's report into high street retailing earlier this year.
The RSA's Sean Carter added: "A retail regulator could put forward a balanced viewpoint from the point of view of the consumer. This is not just a case of us moaning and groaning. We are putting forward solutions and suggestions."