Convenience stores are out-growing the supermarkets, suggests Nielson data for 2009 and the first quarter of 2010. Meanwhile, Tesco and Sainsbury are leading a big increase in investment in new stores and extensions to existing stores, according to building industry analyst Glenigan.

The really interesting question is in reality whethere they will be merely slugging for share against each other.

Gelnigan has tracked £350 million of investment in 60 projects by major supermarket groups in the first quarter, more than double the £150m of contracts awarded in the same quarter in 2009.

Almost all of these projects will come into the market over the next 18 months – suggesting the supermarkets are banking on a recovery in shopper sentiment in 2011, suggests Allan Wilen, economic director of Glenigan.

What is clear is that while supermarkets are backing themselves to be successful, this is a good time for convenience store owners armed with a good business strategy.