Morrisons could be operating as many as 500 convenience stores within a couple of years, the company’s head of small stores told delegates at the IGD Convenience Retailing conference last month.

Convenience md Gordon Mowat said that the company started 2013 with just 12 c-store sites, but will be up to 100 by the end of the year. He added: “My ceo is a demanding character so he’ll be expecting more of the same (ie another 100 next year). We’ll need 300-400 stores before we fully realise scale benefits, and our ambition is to have at least 500 c-stores.”

Mowat explained that the company had successfully refined its model and was moving forward with a format based around fresh food and friendly service. In addition, the M Local brand will be phased out in favour of Morrisons M Local in order to communicate the values of the parent brand better.

“We’ve experimented with different formats but we’re now confident in what we’re rolling out,” he said. “We have a clear view about what a neighbourhood store looks like; we’re still learning about how we flex it. We’re trying to bring back the bustle to the high street, with friendly service from local people. Consumers are looking to do a full shop in convenience stores these days. They expect fresh food, but are not currently getting it from c-stores. Ideally, we want 50% of our store to be fresh.”

Mowat also called on suppliers to “think small” and create better structures for bringing new products to market via the convenience sector instead of just through supermarkets.

“There is an opportunity for suppliers to step up in the convenience space,” he added.