Who is really looking after shoppers these days? The big supermarkets are quick to claim it is them, of course, hence all their publicity - some of it in the form of paid-for advertising, some of it just plain free - about slashing prices for consumers.

As I write this, most of the free publicity is centred on the retail price of fuel, which supermarkets have targeted so aggressively that the average price of a litre of unleaded petrol is now below £1 for the first time in almost a year.

The fuel price 'war' is an admission of vulnerability by the big supermarket chains. Their recent success has been built on encouraging wave after wave of shoppers to drive to out-of-town complexes. But unnecessary car journeys are not the done thing anymore, either morally or financially, and local shopping on foot seems not just a quaint throwback hobby but also a modern necessity for anxious shoppers.

So fuel prices are being slashed to drive shoppers back to driving, as it were. But the main victims will probably be the independent fuel retailers, who don't have the scale to loss-lead their fuel to such an extent. I am sure that forcing yet more forecourt retailers out of business is not the outcome that customers want.

So we should all raise the stakes and bang the drum even louder about the benefits of local shopping. Wholesalers and symbol groups have been doing this expertly in recent times with TV and local advertising, but we need more.

Because what shoppers really want is a great local store on their doorstep, and we need to get the message home that there are already thousands out there.

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