Symbol groups are the new “golden channel” within the convenience sector, a new Him! report has claimed.

The report, Future Proofing the Convenience Industry, predicted the number of convenience stores operating under a symbol fascia, as well as the value of the channel, would continue to grow.

“The increasing number of unaffiliated indies joining symbols is giving suppliers an easier way to access and communicate with these retailers,” said Him! insights director Jill Livesey. “Core range and promotional compliance initiatives mean ever-improving standards.”

“We’ll see more above-the-line national marketing, meaning that symbol fascia brand awareness will rise,” she added. “We are likely to see a growth in small multiple businesses within symbol groups.”

The prediction comes amid the biggest shake-up of the symbol c-store sector in years. The Grocer revealed earlier this month that Costcutter and Palmer & Harvey were teaming up to create a symbol giant with 2,500 stores under seven fascias underpinned by a joint buying company.

The report, which looks at key themes, issues and opportunities for the sector over the next 12 months, was based on feedback from 500 suppliers, retailers and shoppers.

It also predicted forecourts would be the “next big battleground” for symbol groups. Booker’s Premier launched a format specifically for forecourts in November last year, while Nisa launched its own fuel offer last month.

“Suppliers who haven’t previously focused on forecourts will want to revisit the opportunity and grow their understanding of this environment,” Livesey added.

Some 78% of suppliers surveyed said they planned to devote more focus and resources to the convenience channel over the next 12 months.