"It may be tempting to wring your hands and shout about how desperate things are, but these are not exceptional circumstances," he said. "The great performance of the retail industry has been built on consumer borrowing, and that massive debt is no longer growing, but despite the financial impacts on the economy I don't believe we are entering a formal recession."
Marwood added that as consumers tightened their belts opportunities would open up for small stores. "Consumers will look for value and we expect our brand value ranges to pick up. They may also look to eat more component meals made from the fresh ingredients we sell. At the other end of the scale, they may decide not to eat out, but instead come to us and treat themselves to a good bottle of wine, so there is scope for premiumisation as well."
Responsible retailing, he added, was no longer a fringe interest but a "mainstream consumer requirement".
"Whatever our customers choose to do, we need to be ready," he told the conference. "At Spar we are ready to face the challenges - are you?"