Marks and Spencer has bought 28 Iceland stores to develop its Simply Food format. The expansion will take the chain’s number of food-only stores to 171 outlets.

M&S bosses said the format was not as well represented in the UK as it should be, but dismissed press reports suggesting that Simply Food would be rolled out to up to 300 BP service stations nationwide.

At present M&S is piloting a joint venture at eight BP forecourt stores around the country, but both companies said the scheme had not yet been properly evaluated and that any decision to expand the offer would not be made until at least late spring.

In November, M&S chief executive Stuart Rose said he wanted to add more than 100 stores in the next two years, while BP retail director Graham Sims had previously said that the partnership, if successful, could be rolled out to all BP Connect sites.

However, a BP spokeswoman said there was nothing new in the recent press reports although she added that the eight test sites were going well and that customers liked them.