Luís Vieira e Silva, president of the APED (Portuguese Association of Retailing Companies), told just-food that the association anticipates investments in excess of EUR500m (US$657.85m) in the Portuguese retail sector in 2006, with the majority of investment going to mid-sized and specialist stores.

"The big chains didn't focus the large hypers anymore. After years of significant growth in our country, hypers have stabilised," Vieira e Silva said, adding that this trend can be noted throughout Europe.

Vieira e Silva said that consumer store loyalty has declined and consumers now shop around for the best prices, meaning that retailers are under increasing pressure to keep prices low. This trend, he predicted, will continue into next year.

"Consumers are better informed more conscious buyers, sharing the shopping among the stores with best prices or promotions. The price war will continue in 2007, with greatest price competition in basic foods," he told just-food.