Only 12% of shoppers plan to buy their Christmas food and drinks in one big shop this year - leaving the door wide open for convenience stores to grab a juicy slice of the 2014 festive market.

The findings, from an exclusive HIM survey of 1,241 UK adults, meant there was “plenty of opportunity for c-stores to attract increased top up shops over the festive period,” HIM said.

With seven weeks to go, around 20% of shoppers have already started buying their Christmas food and drinks.

Shoppers at Eurospar Cullybackey were already stocking up on tubs of Mars Celebrations which were on promotion at £4.75, manager Laura McLean said: “People see the promotional displays and the price point and they think ‘wow I’ll stock up on that for Christmas.’ Invariably they end up eating them early and coming back for more though,” she added.

Just over 6% of UK shoppers are planning to spend more on their Christmas food and drinks than they did last year and while alcohol, confectionery and gift wrap are all expected to be big sellers in convenience stores, 2014 also looks set to be a “bumper year” for sales of speciality products - following 12 months of solid industry growth.

Paul Hargreaves, managing director of the fine food supplier Cotswold Fayre, said many of its retailer customers were reporting an increase in business, while it had seen a 25% rise in revenue this year. “Larger independent retailers are also looking to have their Christmas orders delivered in earlier than in previous years in order to maximise this key selling period,” he added.

As C-Store went to press Dean Holborn had just started taking orders for farm fresh Christmas turkeys at his two Surrey stores. “Last year we sold just over 80 and I’m expecting to do even more than that this year as they are excellent quality and we’ve built up a good reputation for them,” he said.