Bargain Booze claims the growth of Tesco Express has helped it to expand its own stores as independent retailers seek a value symbol group that competes on price.

The company has opened 60 stores in the past year, many of which it said had come about as independents converted to Bargain Booze when multiples moved in nearby.

"We have signed up stores because they have needed a point of difference when a multiple has moved in," said commercial director Mark Crabtree. "Our stores can compete with the multiples on price - if you take alcohol as a category we are cheaper than Tesco every week. One of our Thorougoods Select Convenience stores is still 24% up year-on-year, even though a Tesco Express opened 50 yards away."

Bargain Booze plans to open another 60 stores this year as its grocery formats attract more independent convenience stores.

The retailer may be best known for cheap alcohol, but its grocery offer is the driving force behind its expansion.

Of the 95 Bargain Booze stores opened in the past 18 months, 83 are Bargain Booze Select Convenience, Thorougoods Select Convenience or Bargain Booze Plus formats, which all stock a grocery range as well as alcohol.

The Select and Plus formats, introduced 18 months ago and six months ago respectively, now represent 16% of the company's turnover.

Unlike at many rival off-licence chains, sales remained strong, Crabtree said. Like-for-like sales in February were 15.1% up on the same month the previous year, he claimed.

"The recession is our marketplace. We are doing well and plan to carry on growing at the same rate in the next 12 months. We expect 80% of the growth to come from the Select and Plus formats," he added.

Accounts recently filed at Companies House show Bargain Booze made a pre-tax profit of £11m in the year to April 2008, up £432,000 on the previous year. Turnover was down £17.2m to £341.7m.