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Sainsbury’s said today (11 June) that the time is right to expand in the UK convenience sector, with growth in the channel and demographic trends suggesting it will be a fruitful market for UK retailers.

Dido Harding, convenience director at Sainsbury’s , told the British Retail Consortium annual conference that the retailer would push on with plans to open more local stores despite the pressure of the downturn.

“There are some fundamentally underlying changes in society that look as though they are here to stay – recession or not,” Harding (pictured) said.

“[Convenience is] here to stay because you’ve got more single-person households and because you’ve got people with more working partners. The day that every family does a big grocery shop and never forgets anything is gone.”

Sainsbury’s is currently opening one c-store a week and aims to increase that rate to two outlets a week next year.

Its push into convenience will help the UK’s third-largest retailer look to meet its three-year target of increasing its selling space in the UK by 10%.

Harding insisted that, despite the downturn, now was not “the time to hunker down”. Harding said: “Good retailers the world over have built platforms for successful expansion in tough times. Now is a great time, if you’ve got a great concept that is consistent with your brand strengths and values, now is the time to go and get it.”

She admitted, however, that Sainsbury’s was playing catch-up in the convenience channel, particularly when its estate was compared to the likes of Tesco.

“Tesco embarked on their journey on convenience 10 years ago. We’re a little late to that party but that is not something that we should be afraid of,” she said.