High levels of customer service and value for money will be priorities for many, while others plan to focus on innovation and expanding their offers.

Dennis Williams, of Broadway Star Supermarket in Edinburgh, said he refused to be negative about the coming year. “There’s no doubt that 2009 will be a challenge but I am confident that if we stay positive and disciplined, stores like mine will ride it out,” he said.

“I’ve recently set up a new website to make it easier for customers to see our promotions and learn a bit more about us. Maintaining relationships with customers will be more important than ever this year.”

Trevor Merrifield, who owns Winterbourne Stores in Salisbury, said he expected to drive sales through promotional activity. “I’ll be investing in leaflet drops to raise awareness of my deals,” he said. “However, there is no doubt that trading will remain volatile, and I’m expecting some really good days, followed by some really quiet ones. People will keep buying, they’ll just be a lot more savvy about it.”

Gillian Boyd, manager of Spar’s Ulverston store in Cumbria, said she would also be going down the promotional route in 2009. “January and February tend to be slow, but I’m expecting it to be quiet for much longer this year. We’ll be looking to get more customers in by increasing our special offers and expanding value ranges,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kate Ellwood of Barton Post Office and Village Store in Richmond, North Yorkshire, also said she was confident that her store would survive, but that she may be forced to cut staff if business became too challenging.

The mood of optimism was mirrored in C-Store’s retailer survey (see page 30) which revealed that 59% of retailers expected their stores to see growth in 2009.