Confectionery is the c-store's most important category, according to our survey. Amy Lanning examines the figures

Our exclusive survey into the c-store retailer's category performance and development has revealed a shift in importance among two of the original convenience categories of confectionery and alcohol.
Confectionery has swapped places with alcohol to be the number-one performing category for convenience stores, according to our study of 200 independent retailers, conducted by The Knowledge Store on our behalf. Of those polled, 25% cite it as their best category of 2007, compared with 14% the year before.
Alcohol, on the other hand, has slipped in importance, although the combination of a poor summer and the lack of a big football tournament is probably largely responsible. Only 23% made it their number-one category last year, compared with 54% the year before. Tobacco remains in the number three position, with 15% declaring it their best category, a rise on the 2007 survey's 12%.
It appears that grocery could be experiencing something of a renaissance, as the percentage of respondents who put the category in their top three was 36%, compared with 20% in last year's survey. Grocery has also crept back onto the list of categories retailers would like to increase space for, with 6% wanting to add to their grocery fixture this year, compared with 5% who wanted to cut space for grocery last year.
Fresh & chilled and food to go/bakery have stamped their mark as ones to watch, with 15% and 11% respectively expecting these two categories to be among their top three performing categories this year, as opposed to 8% each last year.
Retailers evidently don't have any higher hopes for alcohol in 2008, either. Only 22% expect it to be
their number-one category this year, compared with 55% last year. Again, confectionery takes the top spot with 25%, up from 15% in 2007.
Some retailers have aspirations for category development this year, with 7% intending to increase space for food to go, 9% for alcohol, and 6% for grocery, marking the latter category as up-and-coming once more.
There are signs of lower confidence levels in the trade however, with just 21% intending to introduce new equipment and only 9% new services, compared with the more positive 31% and 25% last year.
Of those who do intend to invest, new chillers, shelving and cash machines are the favoured items.

Q1 Which of the following PRODUCT categories were among YOUR TOP three BEST PERFORMERS last year?

Confectionery 63%
Tobacco 46%
Alcohol 40%
Grocery 33%
Soft drinks 31%
News & magazines 23%
Crisps & snacks 21%
Fresh & chilled 14%
Bakery/food to go 11%
Non food 10%
Local produce 4%
Frozen 1%

Q2 What was your number-one performing category last year?

Confectionery 25%
Alcohol 23%
Tobacco 15%
News & magazines 9%
grocery 8%

Q3 What do you expect to be IN your TOP three performing categories this year?

Confectionery 62%
Tobacco 42%
Alcohol 39%
Grocery 37%
Soft drinks 31%
News & magazines 21%
Crisps & snacks 21%
Fresh & chilled 15%
Bakery/food to go 11%
Non food 10%
Local produce 3%
frozen 1%

Q4 What do you expect to be your number-one performing category this year?

Confectionery 25%
Alcohol 22%
Tobacco 14%
grocery 8%
News & magazines 8%

Q5 Which categories do you

intend to increase space for?

none 63%
Alcohol 9%
food to go 7%
grocery 6%
fresh & chilled 4%
local produce 3%
other 3%
confectionery 2%

Q6 Which categories do you intend to decrease space for?

none 83%
soft drinks 4%
other 3%
tobacco 3%
non food 3%
bakery/food to go 2%
fresh & chilled 2%
confectionery 1%
grocery 1%
news & magazines 1%

Q7 Will you be introducing any new equipment this year?

no 79%
yes 21%

Q8 What equipment will you be introducing?

chillers 11%
shelving 5%
freezers 3%
bake-off/food to go 3%
full extension/refit 2%
other 2%

Q9 Will you be introducing any new services this year?

no 91%
yes 9%

Q10 What new services will you be introducing?

cash machine 4%
other 2%
paypoint/payzone 2%
lottery / scratchcards 2%
mobile top-up 1%