Retailers found plenty to celebrate at the C-Store Champions debate, entitled Reasons to be Cheerful and hosted by Convenience Store editor David Rees.

"A lot of the doom and gloom we hear about is being talked up by the media," said independent retailer Nigel Dowdney, who owns two stores in Norfolk. "In my experience, people are still coming to the store, but there's been a move away from premium as people are trading down. We are at an advantage as we can react quicker to the change in shopping habits than the multiples by buying in economy lines."

With so many high street casualties, there is an excellent selection of skilled workers to choose from, added Dee Sedani, who owns two Londis stores in Derbyshire. "We're in a good position as with so many high street redundancies, you can afford to cherry-pick staff."

Stuart Reddish of Londis, Chesterfield, had also seen the benefits of the credit crunch as there have been plenty of opportunities to get good deals. "We're purchasing stock from suppliers at a great discount, so there's a real opportunity to benefit.

"The majority of people I speak to are nervous about buying stock because they worry they won't be able to sell it. But if you can buy in bulk and pay in cash then it works - you can get 2-3% off."

Hampshire retailer Chris Mitchener added: "An essential skill for convenience retailers is the ability to sell to customers as much as possible when they come into the store. You have to have this approach with every customer and you have to invest in growing categories, such as fresh food. With fixed costs such as rates and utilities on the up and inflation standing still, there's a lot less opportunity to balance things out."

Suppliers could help retailers more, claimed Dee Sedani. "As an independent, I find reps give us plenty of point-of-sale material, but they've got to stop putting prices up and support us more."

Pricemarked packaging can help customers to feel they are getting value for money, suggested Tom Fender, sales and marketing director at research consultancy HIM.

"The perception is that pricemarked products are cheap, but that doesn't have to be the case," he said. "Manufacturers can keep the product at the normal price but with a pricemark, and consumers will presume that they are getting a good deal."

Stuart Reddish said he wasn't too concerned about price. "I'd rather set my own than have pricemarked items," he said. "I'm known for being the most expensive shop on the high street, but I say to people: 'Look at the presentation and the friendliness of the staff'. People are prepared to pay for this."