Multiple retailers are continuing their march into the convenience sector, but other store formats are holding their own, according to the latest figures from the 2015 Grocery Retail Structure.

The figures, which are compiled by IGD and William Reed Business Media, publisher of Convenience Store, track store number changes in the year to 31 March 2015. They show that multiple retailers, which include Tesco and Sainsbury’s but also multi-site operators such as McColl’s, grew their convenience estates by more than 10% in the year to pass through the 4,000 mark.

Symbol groups continued to expand, while the number of unaffiliated retailers continued to contract, although in both cases the rates of change were flatter than in recent years, affected by the fact that symbol groups both rationalised their membership and also continued to attract unaffiliated retailers and new store openings in the past year.

There are also more co-operative c-stores and forecourt c-stores than last year, meaning that every category of convenience industry was in growth apart from the unaffiliated independents, boosted by new sites such as pub conversions entering the market.

Booker’s Premier remains the largest single convenience network, with 3,139 stores on the day of the data freeze in March.

C-Store numbers March 2015

Format                                             2015           2014      % change

Unaffiliated independents               18,507        18,630    -0.7

Symbol groups                                15,423        15,173    1.6

Forecourts                                       8,749          8,733      0.2

Convenience multiples                    4,173          3,772      10.6

Co-operatives                                  2,765          2,680      3.2

Total                                                47,255        46,826     0.9

Source: WRBM / IGD Note: Total adjusted to avoid double-counting of symbol stores on forecourts.

A dynamic market

The trends may have been visible for a number of years, but there is an underlying dynamism as stores move within categories.

For example, symbol store recruitment appears to be slowing, but the market is in net growth despite the divestment of hundreds of stores from the Londis and Budgens network, and the recruitment of more than 50 ex-symbol stores into the One Stop franchise (classified as multiples).

Another multiple, McColl’s Retail Group, continues to add c-stores by converting CTNs and acquiring sites from independent operators.

Your view

“Now is a great time to be in convenience, but there is a lot of competition from other independents and the multiples. To succeed you have to be unique.”

Anish Keshwara, Keshco Cambridgeshire

“The sector is booming as people increasingly shop little and often. It’s great news for the sector and retailers like me who want to grow. However, there’s huge competition so you have to pick your location and offer wisely.”

Chaz Chahal, Costcutter Bromsgrove, West Midlands