A new guild has been formed to represent the interests of South Australia’s independent supermarkets.

The Independent Supermarket Retailers’ Guild of South Australia was formed following discussions with independent supermarket groups and owners, including Foodland, IGA and Foodworks.

The Guild’s executive spokesman Colin Shearing said the organisation will represent around 220 independent supermarkets, their owners and approximately 14,000 employees across the state.

“Independent supermarkets in South Australia have about a third of the market share, which is easily the highest percentage of any state in Australia,” he said.

“The formation of the Guild gives the independent supermarket owners a single united voice to lobby and advocate on their behalf.

“This is important in ensuring that the independent sector remains healthy and provides South Australian shoppers with a real alternative to the national chains.”

Some of the key topics the new organisation will discuss include the increase in duopoly anti-competitive behaviour by the major supermarket chains, licensing laws, training and workplace health and safety.

Shearing said one of the immediate issues facing the Guild was the proposal to allow supermarkets to sell bottled wine in their stores.

“The suggestion was made before Christmas and has received strong support initially from the community and winemakers,” he said.

“We see it as a sensible step in both helping to promote South Australian wines on a regional basis as well as providing greater convenience for our shoppers.

“The Guild will be seeking to work with the Government to develop the necessary changes to licensing legislation and hopes the changes can be put before Parliament early this year.”

Shearing also said recent state government cuts in training programs, especially for those wishing to enter the retail sector, were short-sighted and efforts would be made to reverse the decision, which had been made without any industry consultation.

“If we want a vibrant retail sector, it is important that suitable and affordable training is offered to school leavers, people wishing to change career paths or people already in the industry seeking to improve their skills,” he said.

“By reducing funding for training, it becomes more difficult to obtain suitable qualifications and sends the wrong message about the retail industry, which is a major employer in the State.

“Moreover, this decision creates an inequitable situation for our members who can only access funding for training from one source whereas the major national supermarket chains have the capability to access training funds from other sources not available to our members.”

Shearing has been involved in the retail industry in South Australia for about 40 years. He is a former president of the State Retailers Association of SA, which merged with MGA, a representative body of national independent supermarkets. He also helped develop the Retail Executive project, the largest retail management training project in Australia.