Floundering food and clothing retail giant Marks & Spencer has issued a direct challenge to two other retail behemoths, Tesco and J Sainsbury, respectively Britain's largest and second largest supermarket chains.

The battleground is the fast-growing convenience store sector, worth an estimated £36 billion ($53.1bn) in annual sales, and currently dominated by Tesco and Sainsbury.

M&S has chosen two leafy west London suburban sites, nearby Twickenham and Surbiton, in which to set-up two trial operations next May. The stores are expected to occupy around 3,000 square feet and vend between 1,500 and 2,000 lines, including fresh vegetables, ready meals, sandwiches and pizzas prepared on-site. Dependent on results, M&S will roll-out around forty similar outlets.

Opening hours will be more flexible than at the group’s larger city centre stores. Says M&S: “We're tailoring these stores to meet the needs of local people. We're looking to sell people their newspapers first thing in the morning and ready meals when they come home from work.”

News source: Financial Times