Are your sales up 5% this year? If so, you're above average. The annual review of the convenience retail industry compiled by the IGD (with a little help from us), puts growth in the convenience sector at 4.9% for 2010-11. And as the IGD report is the most respected and widely quoted annual study into the sector, you can accept its findings with a fair degree of confidence.

Despite the twin threats of a restricted economy and sustained supermarket development in both large and small store formats, the convenience sector has continued to grow strongly, and I hope that you are close to that 5% mark, even if you haven't quite exceeded it.

There are underlying issues behind this increase, of course. The duty and VAT increases have significantly inflated the price of tobacco; while today's cautious shopper is increasingly demanding more special offers, so extra sales do not necessarily mean extra margin.

But the fact that the consumer is in charge is still good news for local stores, as it means that broader trends that have taken the c-sector to this healthy position are still very much in play. The 'big shop' is less of a feature than it once was, with consumers looking to cut down on wastage by purchasing little and often, and to regularly top up locally their increasingly common online buys.

All these factors have worked to the benefit of local shopping which is one of the reasons why we're seeing three new Tesco Expresses being opened every week and there's no doubt convenience retailing is still on top.

The challenge now is to stay on top. Consumer expectations only rise, and trying to meet and exceed these daily is a stretching target, with fresher foods, wider ranges, 100% availability and a pleasant shopping experience all needing to be managed within a restricted space. And, of course, the competition is closing in. So well done on last year's performance, but there's no let up.

Tell us what you think of us

At C-Store we always like to hear from you and how you are doing, so we're trying to make it as easy as possible for you to give us feedback.

Every two years we do some in-depth reader research, and your personalised questionnaire has been supplied with this issue on the carriage sheet printed with your address. Or if you prefer to work online these days, you can fill in the questionnaire by going to the C-Store home page at and clicking on the link to Reader Research.

I hope you can spare a few minutes to fill in the form and send it back to us. We'd love to hear from you and find out how we can make your favourite fortnightly even more relevant and useful.