Britain's small shops face bleak future

The All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group has been investigating whether Britain's small shops - and the food wholesalers which supply them - can continue to trade effectively

against the aggressive competition and slashed to the bone price cutting of the major supermarkets.

The latter include the Big Four - Tesco, J Sainsbury, Asda and Wm Morrison. Small independent shops have been closing at the rate of 2,000 each year.

The Parliamentary group of MP's, chaired by Jim Dowd, the Labour MP, is putting the finishing touches to its' High Street Britain 2015' report to be published this month or early in February. The Report is believed to forecast that the future of the corner shop is 'very, very bleak indeed' over the next decade due to the increasing dominance of the supermarkets.

Food wholesalers are 'not expected to survive' beyond 2015 as the buying muscle of the big four supermarkets will result in a 'collapse' in the supply chain as food wholesalers, which supply corner shops and small shop chains - are pushed out of the market as a result of 'predatory pricing' and the flouting of out of town store planning limits by supermarkets.

The Report is thought to forecast that the British grocery sector will have dramatically altered by 2015 if the big supermarkets are not controlled in their expansion. The MP's conclude that the aggressive competition of supermarkets is leading to 'food deserts' in the unprofitable city centres of Britain as corner shops disappear. This will hit low earners and the elderly who rely on them.

The Committee is expected to recommend stricter planning and fair trading controls to ensure corner shops and small chains can compete more effectively, plus cheaper parking in town centres.

The Office of Fair Trading is also investigating whether the supermarkets should be referred to the Competition Commission for a full inquiry.

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