Letter: Small shops' battle

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The Independent Culture

Small shops' battle

Sir: So we hear that the Office of Fair Trading is going to investigate the profits of the big four supermarkets, and small shopkeepers (like me) are said to be rejoicing. Well, sorry to spoil the party, but this one isn't.

What is important is the difference between the effective prices paid by small shopkeepers to suppliers and the effective prices paid by supermarkets for the same goods (after all discounts, inducements, rebates, payments for advantageous shelf space that the supermarkets extract from suppliers, etc).

The difference is so enormous as to be anti-competitive, so little shops like ours are labelled as expensive when we're not.

The OFT is supposed to keep an eye on anti-competitive practices. The problem is that small businesses like ours have no bargaining power with suppliers. We are so small that we are in a similar position to the consumer; in fact, in a worse position, because the Government recognised years ago that consumers need protection since they lack bargaining power, thus lending them some statutory support.

I do not believe that this government, any more than any other government, is prepared to grasp this nettle.

I await with a sinking feeling the exoneration of the big four supermarket companies.