THE Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, David Rae, has called on the Government to prevent the major multiples from encroaching further into the c-store sector.
Speaking last week at a Parliamentary briefing organised by Friends of the Earth, Mr Rae told MPs: "We need to look at safeguards for convenience retailers. What cannot be allowed to happen is that the movement of the major multiple grocers into the convenience market continues unchecked."
Mr Rae was joined by Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George, farmer Derek Mead, Kate Raworth from Oxfam and Sandra Bell of Friends of the Earth at the meeting, which was convened to highlight the negative impact that the multiples can have on local communities.
He warned of the growing threat of market consolidation within the grocery industry and urged MPs to play their part in regulating competition.
Said Mr Rae: "The grocery market is dominated by the big four supermarkets who are now moving into the fast-growing convenience market, leaving little room for the independent neighbourhood store.
"It is not only local convenience stores who are under threat, but also local butchers, bakers, Post Offices and off-licences who find themselves unable to compete, especially with low-cost selling around Christmas."
Mr Rae suggested that the Office of Fair Trading should consider the UK grocery market as a single market.
"Consumers make top-up purchases as often in supermarkets as they do in convenience stores. There is no longer a differentiation between ?top-up' and ?one-stop.'
"Safeguards for convenience retailers should include a ban on predatory below-cost selling and a requirement for transparent pricing from suppliers to be introduced as part of the Supermarket Code of Practice."
He added: "These measures will provide the necessary safeguards to ensure that well-run businesses will prosper whether they are run by multiple groups, affiliated to symbol groups or by independent traders."
ACS's membership includes the Co-operative Group, United Co-operatives and the Leeds and Plymouth societies.