The convenience retail sector continues to demonstrate its resilience against the economic tide, according to Christie & Co’s Business Outlook Summer 2012 publication, its first-ever interim report.

The report highlighted that in the petrol forecourt arena, the Chancellor’s refusal to cancel the forthcoming fuel duty increase will potentially damage sales volumes and pose a threat to independent operators, although in the short-term they were boosted by the ‘panic-buying spree’ brought on by conflicting opinions about the possibility of strike-action by tanker drivers in March.

It said that steady rather than spectacular transactional activity has typified a first half of 2012 where markets have learned to operate in a ‘new normal’. Across all retail, there was hope and expectation that debt funding would become more widely available, boosted by the government’s announcement of a new loan guarantee scheme for smaller and medium-sized businesses.

UK managing director of Christie & Co Simon Hughes said: “The ongoing crisis in the eurozone and the fears of a double-dip recession in the UK didn’t inspire great confidence as the year took shape. However, while transactional activity has been of the steady variety, we are buoyed somewhat by indications of a possible return of debt funding. One thing that is clear is that the market is still functioning as operators have learned to adapt to what is a ‘new normal’.”

Steve Rodell, director and head of retail at the property company, said: “Relatively few convenience stores are showing falls in sales while many are finding a safe haven in migrating to symbol brands, as we identified in Business Outlook 2012. Regionally, a change in consumer spending habit is seeing shoppers favouring local stores over the more costly trips to out-of-town supermarkets.”

As Christie + Co also predicted, the restructuring of the Post Office sector has made for a lively first quarter in the transactional market place, with the company’s regional offices able to report on a number of sales to operators keen to take advantage of the sector during this transitional phase.

Rodell added: “As we contemplate the future Post Office landscape, we envisage substantial opportunities for convenience retail operators in delivering the Post Office counter-type services of the near future.”