The convenience store market has rocketed in value to £29.1 billion in the last year, with fresh food and symbol group partnerships helping boost the forecourt sector. According to IGD’s Evolution of Convenience Retailing report, published this month, the figure

represented a 6.1% increase. In addition, there was a slight increase in the number of

forecourt stores over the last 12 months to 8,641 – the first rise since 2002. The report’s author, IGD senior business analyst Stewart Samuel, said this was driven by new openings and re-commissioning of sites.

Samuel explained: “The growth in store numbers is very positive, although it’s a bit too early to say if it’s the end of the recession. But even as you drive around you can see new forecourts being built and developed. And more importantly, some sites which had been decommissioned and mothballed are coming back onto the market.”

Samuel said fresh food continued to be a big growth area for the general convenience sector, now accounting for 30% of total sales. In addition he said the report revealed a decline in the number of non-affiliated independents, driven partly by migration to symbol groups for their promotions and support packages.

Samuel said: “Symbol groups offer strong promotional packages, private label ranges and marketing, and the move to symbol groups is definitely one of the elements that’s making the forecourt sector stronger.”

The report added that the growth of the sector continued to outpace the growth of the UK grocery market overall, with forecasts that the convenience market could be worth as much as £39.7 billion by 2014.