The Association of Convenience Stores has renewed its call for safeguards for the whole of the grocery industry in the wake of another purchase of a convenience store chain by a superstore giant.

Last month J Sainsbury purchased the 54-store Teesside-based Bells Stores group, a move which the ACS believes should trigger intervention in the grocery industry from the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, Patricia Hewitt.

“This is a further wake-up call for the sector, as the pace of superstore entry in the sector is quickening,” said ACS chief executive David Rae.

“We have two choices: to raise false expectations that acquisitions of this sort may be blocked en masse, or to seek realistic safeguards for the whole industry that will allow fairer competition between all players. ACS takes the latter option, and our campaign for a ban on below-cost selling and a requirement for transparent buying prices has now reached a point of critical importance.

“We are asking every MP: do you want food retailing in your constituency to be dominated by the major supermarkets, or do you want a diverse retail

market? Our safeguards would lay the foundation for a more balanced retail industry, protecting the interests of consumers in the long term.

“ACS is also keen that every acquisition is

treated by the competition authorities on its merits, and the grocery industry

is viewed as a single entity, rather than as two distinct markets: ‘one-stop shopping’ and ‘top-up shopping’.