Investigation into grocery sector continues
Asda will open the doors to its biggest UK store tomorrow in Milton Keynes, as small retailers continue to lobby for a competition investigation that could rein in the big grocers' dominance.

The 110,000 sq ft (10,220 sq m) hypermarket is based on the mass model used by parent company Wal-Mart in the US and has been branded as an Asda Wal-Mart Supercentre. Expecting 60,000 shoppers in its first week, Asda general store manager Tim Sparrow said: 'We have been overwhelmed with the friendly reception we've received from the local community and can't wait to open.'

However, the launch of Asda's largest store comes just days after Office of Fair Trading chief executive John Fingleton gave evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Small Shops. He discussed the increasing dominance of several UK retail groups, including Asda, and the effect they are having on smaller businesses.

The Association of Convenience Stores and other lobbying groups hope that the OFT will refer the issue to the Competition Commission which could then launch a full-blown investigation lasting up to 18 months. The ACS is optimistic that the OFT will submit its decision by April. A spokesman said: 'We are very hopeful that the issues we have raised have made it impossible for the OFT to ignore the problem.'

Smaller retailers claim the increasing power of the big four - Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Morrisons - is hurting and, in some cases wiping out, small businesses.

Further developments are expected next month when the ACS submits its own evidence to the investigation.