The ‘unstoppable growth’ of the convenience sector in 2005 looks set to continue this year, according to property specialist Christie & Co.

The market for convenience store property grew faster than the overall grocery market, partly driven by the activity of the multiples, corporate activity by smaller groups and regional operators, and acquisitions by independent retailers.

Despite pressure from larger rivals there is still a place for independents within the marketplace, according to Christie & Co managing director Chris Day. He said: “There are lots of areas where the catchment area is just too small for Tesco, and there is still an opportunity for independents.”

The company predicted that continued takeover activity could provide independents with opportunities to buy from resulting property disposals.

Overall retail values rose by 7.9% in 2005 and look set to remain stable this year. The rise was up on the previous year’s recorded increase of 4.5%.

Christie & Co believes this year will see a continued interest in successful independents from larger rivals and activity from the multiples as Asda contemplates launching a smaller store format to challenge Tesco Metro.
It also predicts further mergers among regional co-operatives and a possible major acquisition by the Co-operative Group.