Small stores have what it takes to fend off the competition – and win

As the supermarkets gear up for further assaults on UK high streets, independent retailers say they are pumped and primed for the fight back.

Last week Tesco announced that it was to embark on a major store opening programme. The multiple, which bought up vast swathes of empty units and land in the depths of the recession, plans to add 1.7 million sq ft of new space to its portfolio equivalent to almost 600 new Express stores in the next six months.

Sainsbury's, which opened 12 new convenience stores in the 16 weeks to October 2, has also vowed to continue investing in its c-store estate after annual sales through its small stores exceeded £1bn.

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"Independent retailers will never be able to beat Tesco on price, but we can hold our own if we play to our strengths. I don't delude myself that people want to do a full shop in my store, but we're here for the top-up purchases, and we offer service with a smile. Now and again, when there's a good promotion on items through the symbol groups or wholesalers, we can give the supermarket deals a run for their money." Manny Patel Manny's Long Ditton, Surrey 

"I've just helped to stop plans for a Southern Co-operative in my town by collecting more than 600 names on a petition. The store wasn't needed as there's already plenty of competition in the area. I'm amazed by the amount of local support I received. Never give up!" Krutika Shah Spar, Chandler's Ford, Hampshire
Independents have met all this news with gritty stoicism.

West Midlands retailer Kash Khera, who owns three stores and has 10 franchisees under his Simply Fresh fascia, said retailers who played to their strengths could fend off the blows.

"It's only the stores that fail to adapt that will suffer when Tesco expands. It's no good resting on your laurels. You need to become your own marketer participate in events in your area and source locally. Although Tesco is good at what it does, every store is practically identical they're not personalised like independent stores. Independents can become part of the community Tesco will never achieve that."

Meanwhile, sustainable development campaign group Tescopoly said that more independent retailers than ever before were working with their local communities to oppose superstore developments, and succeeding at it.

More than 300 local campaigns against supermarket developments are currently in progress, with the most recent success story unfolding in Oxford where Tesco has been refused a second application for a new two-storey Express on a former pub site.

Elsewhere in the city, Nisa retailer Mohammed Afzal is embroiled in a battle against a Tesco development. "Tesco thinks it can push small retailers out. I'm not scared though. You have to fight, and I have. When Tesco applied for planning permission on my road I organised a petition and got hundreds of signatures. Local people love our store and don't need another. We're providing a service and that's what the community needs and wants."

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