Symbol group retailers now account for 40% of the UK convenience market by value, and are expected to increase this share to 50% by 2020, according to new research from IGD.

The symbol sector generates £13.6bn in annual sales, says the IGD, out of a total convenience market sector worth £34bn. This is expected to increase to £44bn by 2017, and within three years of this date one out of every two pounds spent in the industry will be in a symbol-affiliated store.

This growth rate of 29% will outstrip growth in the grocery sector as a whole, with only the discounter and online channels expected to grow faster, at 65% and 98% respectively. However, IGD chief economist James Walton warns that volume demand in the UK remains sluggish, with half of the 18% growth in the grocery industry due solely to inflationary price rises.

“It is clear that convenience is facing challenges, but we remain optimistic about its future,” he said. “Non-affiliated c-stores will remain under pressure, but convenience as a concept will remain healthy.”