Market research company Mintel believes there will be "minimal" growth in convenience stores' sales volumes over the next five years and that the sector will lose share of total food sales to the multiple superstore chains.

In its new report, Convenience Stores UK 2009, the company argues that growth in the average supermarket size and ever-expanding product ranges will ensure that the major players in the grocery sector will continue to grow.

The author said: "It is a fallacy to suggest that people are shopping locally more the evidence of volume sales is against it."

The report gives the Co-op a 23% market share of the c-store sector, followed by M&S at 14%, Tesco at 9.5% and Spar at 7.1%, while unaffiliated independents have a 21.2% share in total.

It also maintains that greater use of c-stores by the consumer is being encouraged chiefly by the major food retailers' new c-store formats, which have also been the main beneficiaries of the trend.

It adds that symbol groups are outperforming independents, and will grow by attracting even smaller stores as members.