IGD, institute, grocery, distribution, institute for grocery distribution, the grocer magazineThe Institute of Grocery Distribution collaborates with William Reed, the publisher of the Grocer, to count how many shops there are in the UK grocery channel each year. It is an excellent project hampered by a consistent bias against the independent retailer.

This year’s figures, exclusively published through the Grocer last week, show that the numbers of independent shops in the convenience channel dropped from 35,620 to 35,430 last year, a fall of 0.5 per cent. Within their number, the number of independent shops that chose to be part of a symbol group rose by 3.6 per cent to 15,287 and the number of unaffiliated shops fell by 3.4 per cent to 20,143.

The Grocer chooses to describe this as “terminal decline” and says the multiples’ growth comes at “the expense of the independents”. Of course, writing a couple of hundred words to summarise a market of just under 42,000 outlets means trends have to be sketched with a broad brush.

Unfortunately, this usually means the multiple retailers get talked up at the expense of the independents. In its market analysis, the IGD projects that the convenience channel will grow strongly as the multiples open more than 1,000 new stores in the next few years.

Many independent retailers have responded to this challenge by joining symbol groups and investing in better standards. Some may well be swallowed up by the multiples. However, at present the independent sector as a whole is doing quite well in the local sector and this needs to be championed rather than dismissed.