Symbol group bosses have said they expect independent stores trading under a fascia to outnumber their unaffiliated counterparts within years.

Senior figures have told RN that they believe the offer from wholesaler-operated groups is now too compelling for retailers to ignore if they want to compete with multiples’ aggressive expansion.

And Best-one director James Hall predicted that the “writing will be on the wall” for some retailers if they do not harness the benefits fascia groups bring.

The comments came in the wake of figures from grocery industry analyst IGD, which said that the convenience channel will grow by 30% in the next five years to reach £49bn.

It said that, while multiple c-store numbers have increased by 13.6% in the last year, symbol groups have enjoyed a 5.1% increase in sales and now make up £4.20 of every £10 spent in the channel.

More and more retailers are migrating towards symbols because they offer things that most retailers cannot achieve on their own

Mr Hall said that some indies would always want to trade under their own name, but added: “However, unless they are a tremendous operator or a specialist store, the writing will be on the wall for them.

“More and more retailers are migrating towards symbols because they offer things that most retailers cannot achieve on their own.”

The IGD report showed that unaffiliated independents still make up more stores than any other type at 18,630, or 38%, but posted 1% decline last year.

Symbol groups were up by 2.8% to 17,080 and at current rates, numbers would overtake unaffiliated stores by 2017.

Nisa’s business unit director for symbol Nigel Gray said he did not believe that there was a ceiling for symbol group membership. “Independent retailers have to play to their strengths of value, local, standards, innovation, service and being part of the community.”

Meanwhile, Spar UK managing director Debbie Robinson said that more retailers were joining Spar to take advantage of strengthened own brand offerings and its relationship with concessions like Subway.