Independent retailers are riding out the economic storm in good health, according to a survey of more than 700 Convenience Store readers.

Four out of five retailers questioned in C-Store's 2009 reader survey said that their businesses' turnover had increased in the past year, with one-third reporting a rise of more than 10%.

Confidence among C-Store readers was high, with 86% saying they were either very optimistic or quite optimistic about the future of their business, a rise from 75% in the 2007 survey.

More than three-quarters (77%) were equally optimistic about the future of the convenience retailing sector, which again revealed improved confidence after only 61% gave the same rating two years ago.

The positive outlook was also reflected in new figures from the Institute of Chartered Accountants, which reveal a surge in confidence in the retail and wholesale sector after strong sales in June and improving year-on-year growth.

Soft drinks emerged as the most encouraging category among the convenience mix, with 63% of readers saying they expected sales to increase in future. Services such as ATMs and utility payments (56%), confectionery (56%) and alcohol (56%) were also highlighted as promising areas of growth.

However, traditional categories such as packaged grocery, non-food goods and frozen foods were revealed as the those in which most retailers expected to see sales drop.

Respondents saw the turbulent tobacco fixture as likely to remain static in the short term, with 53% expecting neither a rise nor a drop in sales. Only one in four retailers predicted a rise in sales in the category. News and magazines was predicted to stay static by 40% of readers, with 36% expecting a fall in revenue.

Rising costs was identified as the biggest issue affecting businesses, followed by red tape and regulations. Profit margins and competition from supermarkets were also mentioned as primary concerns.