An independent study has revealed how important convenience products have become for specialist off-licences - and the loyalty customers have to the sector.
But while the 2008 SOLTrack survey offers plenty of positives for specialists, it also points to an ageing customer base and a decline in the average number of weekly visits.
The survey, based on interviews with customers at Bargain Booze, Threshers and Wine Rack stores, found that 26% of stores are now selling toiletries, 23% stock newspapers and 30% offer greetings cards.
Customers gave shops an average ≠rating of 94% for staff friendliness and 84% described staff as knowledgeable about the products they sell.
The typical customer is predominantly working class and travels an average distance of just 1.29 miles, with half living within a quarter-mile radius.
The average age of customers is 43.3, compared with 40.8 last year, and there is an over-reliance on smokers: 56% of customers, against a national figure of 22%.
On average customers visit stores 1.5 days a week, down from 2.4 in last year's survey.
Matthew Hughes, joint managing director of Bargain Booze, said: "Basically, there is nothing wrong with diversifying into convenience, providing you do it the right way and for the right reasons. You can't just play at it - you have to be a good convenience retailer as well as a good specialist off-licence retailer.
"More than 50% of the stores we'll open in the next 12 months will be stand-alone off-licences, so clearly we believe
the stand-alone off-licence model is still robust.
"With Bargain Booze Select Convenience we actually increase alcohol sales when we convert a store to the convenience format, so we're certainly not diluting the core of what we do - if anything we're enhancing it."
Like bargain Booze, Threshers is going down the convenience route, but Oddbins has opted to stay specialised.