The Competition Commission (CC) is to reconsider the notorious ‘two market’ definition as part of its investigation into Somerfield’s acquisition of 115 former Safeway stores from Morrisons.

The CC has made a statement outlining the issues it will discuss with Somerfield and other interested parties as a result of the purchase.

Top of this list is “whether it is appropriate to distinguish between one-stop shops, mid-range stores and convenience stores in assessing the effect of the acquisition”.

While this statement refers only to the Somerfield purchase, it shows the competition authorities are finally considering the overlap between consumers shopping at different sizes of stores.

Campaigners for the independent trade have been repeatedly frustrated by the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) refusal to refer acquisitions of c-store chains by multiple grocers for scrutiny by the CC, as the office considered a large market share in the grocery market overall not relevant to takeovers in the convenience store sector.

ACS public affairs manger James Lowman said: “There is a subtle difference in that the CC will look at these issues while the OFT has not. This makes it even more important we get a full market review, as this would be carried out by the CC.”

Meanwhile, the future of Somerfield remains uncertain as United Co-operatives has joined the list of potential purchasers of the group.

The society has made an approach to the Somerfield board although has not yet decided whether a firm offer will be made.

The latest trading statement showed like for like sales under the Somerfield fascia declined by 0.1% in the year to April 30, 2005. Group sales were down 0.4%.

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