Uncertainty among Nisa members is growing by the day with the increasing speculation about the exclusive talks between the mutual and multiple giant Sainsbury’s.

The lack of an official statement from either camp has fuelled the imagination of independent Nisa store owners.

Members appear to fit into two camps: those who believe a deal is inevitable, if not with Sainsbury’s, with another multiple or even a revisited Costcutter tie-up; and those who are vehemently resistant to a deal with Sainsbury’s despite the benefits it could potentially deliver.

David Nice, managing director of Freshway in Maylandsea, Essex, which owns two Nisa stores, said it was inevitable Nisa had to get bigger and there were a lot worse partners than Sainsbury’s.

“A lot of members are saying they are going to lose their independence, but I think that will happen anyway.”

He said many members did not understand that if they put Sainsbury’s products on their shelves they would take more money. “Some of the members are getting a bit upset by it all because they are saying it’s one of the big five taking over, but they are not. They are going to supply us and if you don’t want that you can always go to Spar or somewhere else. They still have a choice.”

Sid Ali, owner of four Nisa stores in Aberdeenshire, said he had been through a similar situation when Musgrave took over Londis, but he said the Irish company never delivered on its promises.

“I’m hoping that if anything were to happen, Sainsbury’s would delivery on any promises they made, not so much on the cash terms but on the long-term viability of the business, because it’s clear that Nisa needs to be more competitive and the only way we will do that is by scale. I think the devil is in the detail.”

He would have objected to a deal five years ago, but he said Aldi and Lidl were now “strangling” the market because consumers were using discounters both as a top up and for their big shop, squeezing both supermarkets and independents.

But Emma Jenkins, of Milverton Stores in Taunton, Somerset, said: “I have to ask what the benefit is to being supplied by my direct competitor. My instant reaction is Sainsbury’s would not be in our interest. The fact I own the wholesaler means costs are as low as they can be.”

Anish Keshwara, owner of four Nisa stores around Peterborough, added: ”A supply deal would be beneficial in that we would get a better chilled and fine foods range, but we could get that elsewhere and still retain our independence and point of difference. ”