Convenience store numbers are falling fast, according to market research group Mintel, but sales are growing. In a new report, Mintel says the number of c-stores dropped from 26,000 to 20,000 between 1995 and 2001. Report author Dominic Allport said the decline was mainly among non-affiliated independents which had suffered from fierce competition from the multiples, and forecourts, struggling in a mature and oversupplied sector. He said: "Independents must move quickly. They have the essentials, but not the range. They need to exploit a niche market. Using more local suppliers could help draw in local people." Despite the declining store numbers, Allport said c-stores netted £17.2bn in sales in 2001 ­ up 4.6% on 2000. He explained: "The number of individual stores is diminishing, but the number of bigger chains is increasing. They have helped bump up sales." Allport's findings showed the number of convenience specialists, such as T&S Stores' One Stop chain, had increased by 120% to 2,900 between 1995 and 2001. The number of symbol group c-stores such as Spar had grown by 46.7% over the same period. Non-affiliated independent stores currently commanded the highest share of the convenience market, with symbol groups and forecourts ranked second and third. Non-affiliated independents also represented almost half of all c-stores, with forecourts second at 23% and symbol groups at 18%. {{NEWS }}