As Morrisons joins other big names opening c-stores, brands should note increased opportunities, says David Norbury

The recent news that Morrisons is moving into convenience stores is another clear sign of how important this particular sector is becoming, and how, for brands, it is offering an increasingly powerful arena.

While in-store promotions bring immediacy to a brand's marketing efforts, many companies are missing out by continuing to focus their activity in this area exclusively in the big supermarkets and overlooking the opportunities in convenience.

Although this sector is seen by many to have added complexity, given the many different routes to market, things are changing. Indeed, agencies are acquiring skills to help brands handle logistics and make things straightforward for those looking to exploit opportunities.

The UK convenience market already includes household names such as Londis, Costcutter and Spar, as well as a range of independently owned shops. However, the arrival of Morrisons on the scene alongside existing big-name players such as The Co-op Group, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose will further drive awareness in the sector.

Not only is it growing in worth, it is also growing in credibility. New arrivals are serving to underline the strength of the proposition across convenience, demonstrating to brands that store standards in quality, range and value-for-money are all improving dramatically. And with the Co-op alone pulling in more than 2.4 million people every week, the sector will only continue to grow as a marketing channel over the coming three to five years. In fact, brands such as Red Bull are already taking the market very seriously to great effect.

With almost 50,000 stores across the country, and currently worth a staggering £29bn, the convenience and independent sector continues to rally in a tough economic climate. Indeed, the sector is growing up 6.1% in 2009 and accounting for 20% of the total food and grocery market, according to IGD.

As the Morrisons move will further highlight, convenience outlets offer more and better opportunities than ever. Those brands and agencies that unlock the promotional potential will surely benefit.

David Norbury is chief executive of REL Field Marketing.