“If you can’t beat them, join them,” Booker chief executive Charles Wilson told retailers when questioned on his motive behind merging with Tesco.

Speaking about the proposed merger at the NFRN national council meeting last week, Mr Wilson said he has spent his working life either supplying or competing with Tesco. But working with the retail giant would put Booker in a stronger position within the industry, giving its retailers the edge over the other multiples, he said.

“They have already made their big move into the convenience market but for some of the other multiples that change is still to come – like Aldi and Lidl,” he said. “What I see here is an opportunity to harness some of what Tesco has.”

Acknowledging retailers face “some of the most challenging conditions they have done for an incredibly long time” – in reference to increasing costs, tobacco regulation changes, business rates rises and sugar taxation – he said the merger can give retailers the chance to provide better service, quality and choice.

Advantages Mr Wilson pointed to included better banking rates, mobile payment technology and a wider chilled, frozen and fruit and vegetable offer, as well as access to 16 million Clubcard members.

“Your business is yours but if you can get some of that Clubcard footfall into your shop then that will make your business more sustainable,” he said.

When questioned on its focus shifting away from its retailers in the lead-up to the merger – which is subject to approval from the Competition and Markets Authority – Mr Wilson denied attention had been pulled from wholesale developments.

He said: “We only have three people working on Tesco at the moment and we have said we don’t want anyone getting distracted. No-one will be allowed to say they’re unable to deliver innovations.”