Symbol group store numbers increased by nearly 3% to 16,889 in the year to April 2013, according to new figures released today by IGD and WRBM.

The number of symbol-branded outlets is closing rapidly in on the 18,826 unaffiliated convenience stores, although the decline in the latter is levelling off. In the past year, net symbol numbers increased by 482, while unaffiliated indies declined by just 411, a drop of only 2.1%, showing that the convenience store trading style is continuing to attract and retain successful independent operators.

The number of multiple-owned c-stores jumped markedly again – up 9.6% to 3,318 during the year in question – while co-operative c-store numbers also increased, up 2.9% to 2,637.

Symbol groups are the largest sector of the convenience industry by sales, with turnover growing by 8.3% to £14.8bn, representing a value market share of 41.5%. Multiple-owned c-stores achieved sales worth £6.3bn during the same period.

According to IGD, the total value of the convenience store sector has now reached £35.6bn, a rise of 4.9% on the previous year. The think tank estimates that the market will achieve a compounded annual growth rate of more than 5% during the next five years, to be worth £46.2bn by 2018.