change? no chance

The Competition Commission's latest inquiry into the grocery market offers butchers little assurance that anything will be done to stop the march of the supermarkets. That is the verdict of UK butchery leaders

Graham Bidston, chief executive of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, believes this third investigation just repeats findings of the two previous reports.

"We always knew the terms of the reference and this report does not address major issues such as food miles, environmental issues and lack of competition."

Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association said it was not just competition on meat that could affect butchers: "Even butchers expressing confidence did have concerns about other traders in a row of shops like electricals because if other shops become unviable there will be less footfall."

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the Commission's pledge to examine competition at local level, but Clive Davenport, FSB trade and industry chairman warned: "Unfair or illegal competition is not acceptable and it is essential that the Competition Commission does its job properly to stamp it out. On the evidence of today's initial findings it does not look promising."

The next stage of the Competition Commission's inquiry into the grocery market will focus on the area that matters most to consumers - competition between retailers at a local level. The Commission said price flexing and below-cost selling pricing are some of the ploys used by supermarkets to remove competition and therefore consumer choice.

Peter Freeman, chairman of the Commission, said the inquiry would examine whether local monopolies existed. Small shops such as butchers and bakers were being forced out of business by the supermarket stranglehold, the report found. Since 2000, the number of supermarkets owned by the "Big Four" had doubled while the number of specialist shops had dropped by 7% with the loss of than 2,830 butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers.

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