Embattled c-store owners were offered a welcome glimmer of hope this week as Nielsen data seen by The Grocer revealed value sales for the convenience sector were on the up.

According to figures for the four weeks to 21 March, value sales rose 2.2% in c- stores under 3,000 sq ft. This growth, which does not include c-stores run by the multiples, was ahead of the 0.4% growth recorded for the total grocery market in the same period.

Sales had been boosted by consumers increasing the frequency of shopping trips, said Mike Watkins, senior manager for retailer services at Nielsen.

"When petrol prices peaked we identified that people were doing fewer shopping trips and were concentrating their spending at large, out-of-town supermarkets," he said. "Now petrol prices have dropped back, we note people are shopping around more and there has been a revival in the number of shopping trips made for a small number of items."

Some 71% of shopping trips were for baskets of less than 10 items, up 10% year-on-year, he added.

Martin Williams, managing director of Landmark Wholesale, which has been running a Shop Often, Shop Local, Spend Less campaign to encourage consumers to use their local c-stores, backed the findings. "Our campaign has been in full swing for six months now and appears to be paying off. "

Steve Fox, director of retail and Premier development at Booker, said the figures reflected the fortunes of Booker, which earlier this month reported a 6.4% increase in fourth-quarter sales.