The demise of Woolworths has opened up a significant opportunity for independent retailers, says a confectionery wholesaler.

Hancocks Cash and Carry senior buyer Jonathan Summerley says that the closure of Woolworths' 800 stores has removed pick and mix sweets to a value of £5m from the high street.

"Shoppers will still habitually want to treat themselves, despite the recession," he said. "They can no longer do this in Woolworths and so will look elsewhere. I don't think that I would be exaggerating in describing this as one of the best opportunities for independents likely to happen during 2009."

Summerley revealed that loose sweets or weighouts can return up to 70% profit.