Convenience stores are ready to kick-off what could be the busiest four-week period in the sector’s history.

The World Cup, which begins this week, a sustained period of excellent weather and new figures which show the convenience sector is growing faster than supermarkets all point to a record-breaking early summer – provided stores are prepared for the rush.

Despite the evening kick off times, research consultancy HIM expects 85% of viewers will still watch the football festival at home, with England’s first two games – on the evenings of Saturday, June 12  and Friday, June 18 – perfect for garden parties and barbecues. Should the team progess to the later stages, local shops will be among the biggest winners.

Costcutter executive chairman Colin Graves said the company was ready for a fantastic summer. “We believe we’re offering an unrivalled campaign for stores and with all this support, we’re confident the World Cup will see our retailers having a winning tournament.” 

Alcohol, particularly beer, is expected to lead the sales uplift, with Heineken UK estimating an incremental £84m in the take-home market. It expects the 43% increase in beer shopping trips during the first week of the 2006 tournament to be exceeded. In addition, Jonathan Summerley of wholesaler Hancocks said the next few weeks would be “at least as big as Easter” for confectionery. 

Verdict Research retail analyst Joseph Robinson said that local convenience stores are likely to benefit as consumers top up supplies of snacks and drinks, but warned that in the alcohol category price competition among the supermarkets will mean margins will be tight.

The sun looks set to play its a part, with The Weather Outlook forecasting a long spell of warm and dry weather with above-average temperatures across the country and a possible heatwave in southern England at the end of June.

The World Cup kicks off against a background of strong growth for the convenience sector, with annual sales up 6.3% according to industry think tank IGD. This growth is ahead of the 4.1% increase experienced by the grocery market as a whole.

Symbol group stores are enjoying particular success, with sales up 10.6% according to IGD.