The convenience store market grew its sales by 6.3% in the past year to reach a value of £30.9bn, according to the latest figures from industry expert IGD.

This increase is bigger than the 6.1% achieved in the year 2008/9, and is greater than that achieved by the grocery market as a whole. Convenience stores now account for more than one pound in every five spent in the £147.5bn UK grocery sector.

Symbol groups continue to lead the way in the industry, achieving sales growth of 10.6% and recruiting more than 1,000 new stores in the past year. The rise in symbol group stores is mirrored by an equivalent drop in unaffiliated independents, although this sector still accounts for more than 40% of store numbers and 22% of sales in the sector. Co-ops and convenience multiples continued to grow sales, by 8.8% and 9.5% respectively.

The figures are published this week in IGD’s annual c-store market study, Convenience Retailing 2010: Future Trading Strategies. Report author Jamie Trust paid tribute to the speed at which the convenience industry had realigned itself to meet changing customer needs.

He told C-Store: “The industry has worked hard to improve its value for consumers with new promotional mechanics and wider private label ranges. At the same time, there have been innovations in formats, meaning that the trade can better capture different types of shopper on a variety of shopping missions.”

Fresh food accounts for 31.9% of sales in the sector, growing faster than any other product category, while the continuing development of hot food to go and the increase in larger format stores is helping the industry to follow shopper trends more closely, Trust explained.

“The convenience store industry has evolved significantly and is continuing to meet the changing needs of shoppers,” he continued. “It’s a challenging economic market, but all of the factors that have underpinned recent growth in convenience retailing still hold true.”