FEARS that the humble corner shop will be a thing of the past by 2015 are ungrounded, say traders.
A leaked Government report predicts that, with the continued growth of supermarket chains like Tesco, Mid Cheshire's small independent traders have an expected shelf life of only 10 years.
The latest figures seem to suggest that traders are being pushed into economic extinction - nationally, independent corner shops are closing at a rate of 2,000 every year and last year overall sales fell by 5%.
And according to the report, if the small-shop chain collapses then so will the wholesale sector that supplies it.
Wholesaler Booker, on Manchester Road, Northwich, provides goods to many of Mid Cheshire's independent stores. Manager Ian Jones said there has been a shift towards other sectors of the market, particularly independent caterers, in recent years.
But he doesn't believe that the end is nigh for the corner shop. He said: 'The market seems to be moving to better quality convenience stores - it's more evolution than extinction.
'If you look at a new estate, like Kings-mead in Northwich, then you will probably find one shop for 1,000 houses but it will be state of the art. It's a changing business and the quaint corner shop needs to provide the standards consumers demand.'
Ray Clark, of Weaverham newsagents R & M Clark, also believes adapting to the local environment is the answer.
'I can't blame people for shopping at Tesco,' he said. 'I have got to look at supermarkets as competition and act accordingly - it is up to retailers to look after their own interests by keeping prices competitive and giving friendly service.
'Supermarkets are cheap where they choose to be cheap, not necessarily on the whole range of their products. There's no doubt the well-off retailer is in a position to compete on prices - and I would expect a basket of goods in my shop to be as competitive as any supermarket around.'
He continued: 'I think customers are aware that if the small man goes to the wall then it's only the large man left and then he can do what he wants. Who wants a row of shops all closed with just one supermarket open in the middle? Once a small shop has gone, it's not going to come back.'
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