Symbol groups are going head to head with major multiples to grab as many forecourt store leases as they can, according to property company Christie & Co.

Budgens, Londis, Costcutter, Spar and Mace have become increasingly acquisitive over recent months, claimed director Allen Shepherd.

They were competing with retailers such as M&S, which last week said it planned to open 60 more Simply Foods on BP forecourts this year, as well as Tesco and Sainsbury's.

"Companies are desperately trying to get on to forecourts," said Shepherd. "Retailers know they would be able to significantly improve shop sales so they are queuing up for them."

Meanwhile, oil companies such as BP, Total and Esso were increasingly keen to offload forecourt stores to retail specialists. "The oil companies know they are not retailers but don't want to lose fuel supply to these sites," he said.

Some were even looking to offload entire sites for redevelopment. "Some sites are more beneficial as building sites, and if a fuel operator already has another site in the catchment area they'll take their fuel sales elsewhere," he said.