UK c-stores received a healthy dose of investment this autumn as retailers injected more than £157m into their businesses in the past three months, up 36% on the previous quarter.

Non-affiliated independent retailers spent an average of £2,165 per store in September, October and November, while symbol group retailers spent £3,405, the Association of Convenience Stores Investment Tracker reveals.

Multiple convenience stores spent an average of £3,957, the survey of 1,200 independent and multiple operators shows.

The rise follows the summer spending slump as retailers tightened their purse strings following the “budget shock” and widespread concern about the National Living Wage of £7.20 an hour, the ACS said.

The most popular form of investment was refrigeration, with 36% of stores who made an investment in the past three months spending money on it. This was closely followed by till systems, store signage and crime prevention measures.

Most retailers (72%) are funding investment through their own reserves, while 11% are being helped by suppliers, and 5% by the banks. Just under 10% of symbol stores are getting funding from their groups.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The figures show the resilience of the convenience sector with many stores making improvements in their business infrastructure despite rising costs and continuing shop price deflation.

“For stores to stay relevant and competitive, investment in better refrigeration, signage and new features and services is crucial to their long-term survival,” he added.

However, despite the recovery in investment levels, the percentage of retailers who have increased staff hours over the past year has continued to fall, reaching just 7% - its lowest level since February 2012.

Looking to the year ahead, retailers were more optimistic about increasing sales than they were in the summer, but less optimistic about the prospect of increasing staff hours.