The past year was a testing one for the tobacco category, with the display ban looming and the illicit trade a constant threat. But Convenience Store's latest product performance survey has revealed it to be the most resilient of categories, voted joint best performer of 2009/10, alongside confectionery with 27% of the votes.

While it is no surprise to see confectionery getting a nod, tobacco's result is significant when you consider it received just 23% of the vote last year, trailing behind alcohol with 33% of votes.

This year's survey shows how the tables have turned, with alcohol receiving just over half (17%) of the votes it achieved last year.

Looking forward to which category is expected to do well next year, retailers show that they still have plenty of faith in confectionery and tobacco, which received 33% and 24% of the votes respectively.

Alcohol took another tumble, receiving only 16% of the votes, compared with last year when more than a third (36%) of retailers claimed that they expected it to be the best performing category.

Other notable results show that retailers are becoming more conscious of the benefits of pricemarked products, with 50% of those polled demanding more pricemarked packs from suppliers.

We spoke to a selection of retailers to hear their thoughts on the survey results.

1. What was your best performing product category last year?

Tobacco27%

Confectionery27%

Alcohol17%

Groceries13%

News & mags6%

Energy & soft drinks5%

Food to go2%

Bakery1%

Lottery1%

Not sure1%

2. Which category do you expect to do best this year?

Confectionery33%

Tobacco24%

Alcohol16%

Groceries12%

Energy & soft drinks6%

News & mags5%

Food to go2%

Bakery1%

Lottery1%

3. Which product areas will you be dedicating more space to this year?

Confectionery12%

Chilled4%

Energy & soft drinks4%

Alcohol3%

News & mags3%

Groceries3%

Food to go3%

Tobacco3%

Not sure9%

No change65%

4. What is the biggest overall product trend you are seeing demand for from consumers?

Economy prices80%

Rounded prices (eg £1, £2, £3)13%

Local produce6%

Cooking from scratch1%

5. What is the best way for suppliers to improve product packaging?

More recyclable outer packaging43%

Smaller pack sizes24%

Less packaging14%

More stackable tins/ boxes11%

More shelf ready packaging8%

6. Which manufacturing representative would you say has been the most helpful?

Cadbury15%

Mars11%

Imperial Tobacco11%

JTI (Gallaher)10%

They are all equally helpful7%

Walkers 3%

Other43%

retailer opinion
"I think tobacco is doing well because people rely on cigarettes as a de-stress tool in times of hardship. I've had a number of customers who are worried about their health tell me that they're giving up, but they only quit for a couple of weeks and then start up again. "Also, people are smoking more at home because of the ban on smoking in public places. I think the reason we aren't seeing smokers buy more alcohol at home is that there just isn't the same money around as there has been in the past. Alcohol is a fairly expensive product and while smokers can choose to go without a drink, many won't do without their cigarettes." Des Barr, Sinclair Barr Newsagents, Paisley, Renfrewshire
7. What is the number one thing from a financial point of view that manufacturers and wholesalers could do to help you during 2010?
Pricemark products50% Decent margins37% Improve price promotions10% Extend credit1% Unsure2% "I'd expect pricemarked products to be popular. They definitely help as they're attractive to the customer and drive sales. I often find with cigarettes that the product is pricemarked at the same price as it was when it was unmarked, and sometimes it's even higher. This means I get a better margin, but people buy into it thinking they're getting a bargain." Rowan PatelJ Robarts and Son, Codicote, Hitchin, Hertfordshire