Convenience store operators have a “fantastic opportunity” to increase spirits sales by updating their ranges to reflect the modern consumer, according to supplier First Drinks.

Premium spirits, fractional sizes and making the most of gifting occasions all offer incremental sales opportunities for local stores, says the company, adding that the total off trade market is up only 2%, but premium spirits are up by 18% overall.

Speaking at the launch of First Drinks’ annual market report in London last week, head of category management Roy Summers commented: “Beers wines and spirits is the highest value category in convenience and is the fourth biggest shopper mission, but only 1.2% of shoppers buy spirits in c-stores. If we could move this from 1.2% to 2% it would be worth £480m to the industry.

“You see multiple grocers moving more into affluent ranging and a lot more emphasis on in-store environment, and we definitely need to work harder to get the right range into convenience stores. The fractional range is not big enough and some key categories are not being represented, such as non-cream liqueurs and premium gin.”

He added that shoppers were very loyal to fractional sizes – 72% of 35cl shoppers buy only that size – and that one in five spirit purchases is a gift, with this mission up by 12% in c-stores.

First Drinks Brands managing director Chris Mason added: “It’s a tough market and consumers have less disposable income, but they are making the choice to drink less, but better. Spirit volume may be flat, but value continues to grow.”

The company’s premium brands Tullamore Dew, Hendricks, Remy Martin VSOP and Sailor Jerry are all in good growth, he said.