Mills Group has set out ambitious plans for double-digit sales growth across the majority of its categories this year.

The independent retail chain, which operates 75 c-stores and CTNs in the north of England, the Midlands and South Wales, has set the ambitious targets for fresh produce, dairy, ambient grocery, non-food, alcohol, soft drinks and stationery.

MD Nigel Mills said the targets had been revised to reflect the greater amount of space and number of lines now offered in these categories. Strong sales in these would offset the 1% to 2% growth expected in its core categories of tobacco and news, which represented 27.3% and 23.8% respectively of Mills Group's £58.3m total sales last year.

"The market is shrinking in these areas," said Mills. "Tobacco volumes are down and news has dropped by as much as 15%-20% for monthly magazines.

"We have changed the layout and design of our stores to behave more like a Tesco Express or a Sainsbury's Local, so we have new categories to target."

Sales of fresh and chilled goods rose 21.6% to £4.9m last year, representing 8.4% of Mills Group's total sales, he added. Alcohol sales rose 7.9% to £6.5m and soft drinks rose 3.9% to £3.4m.

Mills Group launched a convenience store model in 2005 and in September last year rolled out the concept to 19 of its stores through a new co-branded fascia with buying group Nisa-Today's.

The new fascia and store layouts would help Mills Group hit its growth targets, Mills said. Mills Group is 18th in The Grocer's ranking of the top 50 independents with sales of £53.3m and pre-tax profit of £700,000.