The growth of convenience stores may have reached “saturation” point in the UK after the number of smaller shops surged 21% in just five years.

There were 16,426 c-stores operating across Britain at the end of 2015, up from 13,617 shops at the end of 2010.

The fastest growth in the sector came from the “big four” supermarkets, as Sainsbury’s and Tesco aggressively rolled out their smaller formats, putting symbol groups including Spar, Mace, Londis and Budgens under increasing pressure.

But according to analysis from Local Data Company (LDC), the boom in the fast-growing convenience market may have peaked after 228 towns and cities across the UK reported a fall in the number of c-stores last year, with a total of 300 stores closing.

LDC said convenience stores were actually the slowest growing division of the grocery market over the past five years, when considering their compound annual growth rate.

The number of convenience stores increased 3.2% across the last five years, less than half of the growth rate of discount stores, which stood at 7.2%.

The number of supermarkets grew at 4.9% during the same five-year period, LDC said, although the larger stores were the only formats to post a fall in their growth rate between 2013 and 2015, slipping from 5.3% to 1.6%.

At the end of 2015, the UK had 2,304 supermarkets and 4,337 discount stores in addition to the 16,426 convenience stores.

Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said: “The key point of note in this research is the relentless expansion of all food formats across Great Britain for the last five years.

“The way people shop has changed which has impacted the large superstores sales, which has been further impacted by convenience formats of the same supermarkets alongside the discounters and the symbol groups.

Hopkinson said that “profoundly” changing consumer habits had affected the shape of bricks-and-mortar retailing over the past five years and added that the launch of Amazon Fresh could have similar impact on the online grocery market.

“Last week’s announcement of the launch of Amazon’s new grocery service will be an interesting one to watch, as it has the potential to compete with not just the supermarkets, but the discounters and the convenience stores,” Hopkinson said.

“The role and relevance of food shopping for consumers is changing profoundly. We have seen the physical impact but unlike other sectors we have yet to see the online impact.

“Perhaps Amazon will be the catalyst to change this and if it does then we will see some retailers under significant pressures over the next five years.”