Independent c-store chain Mills Group has reported a small increase in sales over the Christmas period as it prepares to buy its first new store in three years.

MD Nigel Mills said sales rose 1% in the five weeks to 3 January, with grocery, alcohol and chilled all doing well, boosted by brand and own-label promotions. However, tobacco fell and the news and magazine category was also down because shoppers were choosing to take out subscriptions, Mills said.

Mills Group’s web-based magazine distribution business, Unique Magazines, saw a 60% sales uplift in December and a 83% rise in January, he said.

The c-store chain is buying its first new store since September 2006 this week. The store, in the Leeds area, is the first of six Mills plans to buy in 2009. “I’m cautiously optimistic about this year,” said Mills. “If c-stores have the right balance of products, they have a key role for shoppers.”