The independent sector continues to enjoy good growth, with liquid leading the way.

Sales in the independent sector continue to perform well, showing a strong Christmas trading period and continued resilience in the recession, according to the latest figures from SalesOut.

Based on a broad sample of more than 11,000 independent stores, 5,000 of which are symbol group members, the sector has seen a 7.5% rise in like-for-like sales in the past 13 weeks, and a 6.6% rise in like-for-like sales in the past 52 weeks outperforming the grocery sector as a whole.

Annual growth in sales is being driven by soft drinks (up 8.4%) and spirits (up 10.4%). Cider also continues to perform well (+15.3%) on the back of 'over ice' campaigns.

Commercial director Steve Collins says: "It is encouraging to see that wine is also in growth, up by 7.2%. Beer continues to struggle against the aggressively promoted offers from the multiples (-4.1%), but the decline has seen a considerable slowdown in the past 13 weeks, with sales currently down only 1.9%.

"The frozen category continues to struggle for sales (-1.2%), as people tend to buy from specialist discount retailers such as Iceland and Farmfoods," he comments.

Looking at the top growth categories of the past year, the mainstays are non-perishable and staple goods such as biscuits (+8%), hot beverages (+7.6%), breakfast cereals (+6.7%) and cooking & baking (+4.7%).

Categories that might be considered a treat, such as biscuits and confectionery (+7.3%), continue to perform well as people look to offset the gloom and extra demands required in the recession.

"There was also a strong performance by the pet care category," continues Collins. "This was driven by multipack sales, showing the benefits of stocking a range that is more reflective of consumer needs."

With consumers looking to buy a wider range of groceries from their local store, it is wise for retailers to continually assess and respond to consumer needs, he adds.