Sales in the UK's 'corner shops' have grown by nearly 8% during the last two years, heralding a turnaround for the smaller convenience sector buffeted for a decade by the rise of major supermarket outlets.

The promising figures were published today by market research group Mintel, which explained that until 1999 smaller top-up shops posted year on year growth of between just 1-2%.

Richard Caines, retail consultant at Mintel, explained to the Daily Telegraph that the turnaround was largely down to the determination of smaller retailers to rival the services offered by supermarkets: "You can now walk into a corner shop and buy more than the basics, like milk and bread. They now offer better product ranges and more fresh foods such as fruit and vegetables."

"They are not gaining customers at the expense of supermarkets," he stressed: "But they are making a high level of sales from top-up purchases."