The number of symbol retailers has fallen over the last 12 months for the first time in years, with unaffiliated retailers on the rise, according to the latest data from the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD).
The think-tank says tthe total number of convenience stores remained flat at 47,227 in the year to March 31, but the number of symbol group retailers fell by just over 100 stores to 15,060. Unaffiliated store numbers increased by more than 350 to 19,054 and now account for 38% of the c-store market.
Part of the growth in the unaffiliated sector is down to rationalisation in the symbol group market.
“A focus on increasing compliance and discipline has seen several symbol groups downgrade previous members. These stores now continue to trade on an unaffiliated basis,” said the IGD.
There were some “notable elements of growth” in the symbol sector in 2015, with Booker, which acquired Budgens and Londis, reinforcing its Premier fascia as the largest symbol group. Spar had “another successful year of store additions”.
Convenience forecourt store numbers remain virtually the same at 8,748, while Co-operative store numbers grew by 85 to 2,850 outlets.
The multiple convenience sector opened 220 outlets in the year to reach 4,383, but the rate of store openings has slowed, apart from at Sainsbury’s.