As the Competition Commission’s investigation into the grocery market moves on to local retailing issues, PRA boss Ray Holloway has admitted he’s pessimistic about the results. "My money is firmly on the CC deciding that the general offer by all supermarkets is competitive and beneficial to communities, and as a result it will not intervene," he told Forecourt Trader.

"When supermarkets were in out-of-town locations they obviously threatened forecourts close by, but it wasn’t until they extended their price offer and became c-stores that forecourt retailing was widely threatened. Vital local services are being lost forever and generations ahead will pay a price in inconvenience unless the CC surprises us all."

He praised groups like the Frasers for learning from the supermarkets but said many others had failed because they had not risen to the challenges. However he reckoned that investors would continue to "seize the forecourt opportunity and build new forecourt convenience outlets".

Meanwhile the ACS welcomed the CC’s Emerging Thinking document and its emphasis on local trading with the focus on price and quality. Below-cost selling and price-flexing will also be investigated.

Public affairs and communications manager, Shane Brennan, said that although the inquiry did not cover the fuel market, the ACS had submitted evidence about fuel pricing because the CC said it would consider products that were directly related to the grocery market.