Symbol groups have improved their service to retailers in the past year, according to HIM’s Symbol Track 2013.

Based on a rating of one to 10, retailers interviewed for the study rated their symbol group better in 2013 than last year for availability of stock (7.9 on average, compared with 7.7 in 2012) and for knowledge of shopper market trends (up from 6.9 in 2012 to 7.4 in 2013).

Retailers also think that pricing has improved, with 83% of retailers believing that their symbol group offers competitive prices, a big increase on the 68% who thought so last year. However, only 75% of symbol retailers think their wholesaler is providing promotions on the right products for their shoppers. Overall, 70% of retailers said they felt valued by their symbol group.

Within individual product groups, 90% of interviewees thought their symbol group understood the impulse and snacking categories well, with lower levels for bakery (78%) and fruit & veg (76%).

Members of virtually all groups said that their wholesaler had improved the selection and quality of own label lines, and that symbol groups had improved the brand awareness of their fascias among consumers.

HIM insights director Katie Littler said: “Symbol groups really need to focus on extending their brand reach to shoppers. We know that fewer than 3% of UK adults feel loyalty to a particular convenience chain, but by becoming a nationally recognised, and loved chain, they will be able to attract more shoppers and retailers alike.

“Spar achieves much higher brand awareness than other symbol groups - part of this will be the sheer number of stores compared with other chains, but the group has also announced it will be advertising nationally on TV with £5m campaign this summer.”

The study is based on 1,250 telephone interviews with retailers in April and May 2013. Store owners from nine leading symbol groups were interviewed, plus 100 unaffiliated retailers.