The sun shone, the daffodils bloomed and the thousands of retailers who made the journey to Birmingham's NEC got a glimpse of the better climate ahead as they explored the offers on display at the Convenience Retailing Show earlier this month.

Visitor numbers were up an encouraging 15% this year, a good indication that retailers are seizing the challenge of moving their businesses forward into new areas, and looking for fresh ideas, comprehensive support and sound advice from their supply chain partners.

Harsh economic conditions didn't prevent manufacturers and suppliers showing their support for the convenience sector, and while the current recession means that the big product launches were necessarily thinner on the ground this year, exhibitors latched onto the general mood of cost-consciousness with some excellent offers and bargain prices on orders made at the show.

New this year was the Cafe+ section, dedicated to food to go and food service, and the crowded aisles in this part of the hall demonstrated just how much the 'cafe and coffee' offer appeals to c-store retailers who are looking for a new direction for 2009.

C-Store spoke to convenience retailers who had taken a day out to browse the aisles, and here we present their highlights, along with some favourites of our own.

Pussy Drinks was exhibiting its new natural energy drink, Pussy, and doing its bit for charity by donating sales proceeds to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation for HIV/AIDS awareness.

Landmark Wholesale has widened its LSV energy drink range with the introduction of an isotonic orange drink, pricemarked at 49p.

Distributor Newbridge Foods has gone down the environmental route, with Toxic Waste Hazardously Sour candy. The brand uses recycled material in its packaging and raises awareness of environmental issues to children buying into the brand.

Sun Valley unveiled its new and improved 'You are what you eat' range of snacks. The healthy snacking range now includes goji berries that lower cholesterol and boost energy.

Retailers who produce their own products might want to look at KTEC Technologies' Primera colour label printers. "A lot of people go to a local printer, but then they have to buy 5,000, when they may only need 20," says managing director Robert Knox.

Cash management was a key topic at CRS this year and Loomis was at the forefront with its SafePoint system. The system is a fully insured safe that counts the money, detects forgeries and provides real-time online cash management.

YP Electronics' buy one, get one free offer for the Sinqua system attracted a large amount of attention.

The Green Planet Carton Converting Company introduced its environmentally friendly sandwich packaging. The board for its biodegradable sandwich packs comes from sustainable sources and the windows are made of PLA instead of plastic.
Retailer opinion

Vivienne Barr

Thresher, Evesham

"I'm having a great day finding out about new products and technology. It wasn't easy getting out of the store for a day but it's definitely been worth it. We're looking to increase confectionery and snack products in our store."

Julie and Ian Hayden

Haydens, Leicester

"This is our 30th year in retail so we were keen to come to show to find some new ideas. We're looking for something different that will give our store a bit of the wow factor. It's also a great place to meet other independents and share experiences."

David Kokach

Kosher Kingdom, London

"I've had a really enjoyable day and I can't believe how much I have managed to pack in. It's been really interesting meeting all the exhibitors and finding out about new products and trends. I've also come away with lots of goodie bags and samples!"

Kirt Pupaelia

Kirt's Store, London

"If you work in the convenience store industry, then you need to come to CRS. I've been coming for years and it never fails to impress. This year I'm

talking to the refrigeration companies here as I want to expand my chilled foods offer."

Ian Handley

Handley's, Cheshire

"I'm mainly here for general interest and to sample some of the delicious products on offer! There's also some really interesting seminars; I'm really keen to know more about the tobacco display ban and the new Scores on The Doors scheme."

Paresh Modi

newsagent, London

"I've come to CRS every year for the past 10 years and it just keeps getting better. I come with my friend who is also a retailer, and it's a great day out. Interesting people, innovative products, and good food - what more could you want from a show?"