Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy may have slowed after a decade of unprecedented growth, but its convenience store sector is still booming, according to new data.
Figures from the Irish government's central statistics office indicate sales at c-stores in the Republic have risen 10% year-on-year.
The news will be welcomed by Irish c-store chains, several of which are gearing up for expansion.
Spar operator BWG is aiming to increase the number of Spar outlets from 440 to 520 over the next three to five years. It also plans to open 20 more Mace stores to add to its existing 250 outlets.
Symbol group ADM Londis, which currently has 360 stores, is also on track to open 40 more this year.
A subsidiary, ADM Investments, has been established to acquire greenfield sites with a purchase fund of €20m.
Centra, a Musgrave Group franchise chain, is the biggest player in the Irish convenience market, controlling more than a third of the sector. It achieved sales of €1.2bn last year - a 17% sales increase - and is on target to match that figure this year. It has added more than 40 stores to its existing network of 440 this year.
The Gala convenience chain, set up a 10 years ago by cash & carry wholesalers, is also thriving with 220 stores and another 130 in a spin-off network of Gala Xpress and Gala Superstore outlets.
"A lot of the growth in the sector is driven by demographics," said Peter Kealy, MD of Spar Ireland. "The population will reach five million by 2015 and Dublin is rapidly expanding."