Tesco plans huge expansion of Express outlets

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Tesco is planning to open hundreds more branches of its Express convenience stores, including standalone sites that are not located at petrol stations.

Tesco currently has 78 Express branches and is opening new sites at the rate of one a week. So far all the stores are linked to Tesco petrol stations but Britain's biggest supermarket group is hoping to extend the concept to high street sites.

In an interview with The Independent Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco's chief executive, said: "Express stores will be significant. The convenient, 'I want it now', shopping echoes the slightly unplanned nature of life. I think you'll be seeing more of these type of outlet, potentially hundreds more."

The first Express sites opened in May 1994. Though Tesco had some initial problems organising deliveries to small, urban locations, these have been resolved and the stores have proved highly successful.

Sir Terry said the company was looking to expand further into services. Tesco recently acquired Firstcall, an agency which supplies travel and theatre tickets. Tesco is also looking at other possibilities in offering utility services as well as mobile and landline telephony.

Tesco believes there are opportunities to grow in sectors where the service is created and sold to the customer by the same company. It has already done this with banking, via a deal with Royal Bank of Scotland.

Tesco is actively examining the possibility of selling cars following the recent European Commission report designed to liberalise the car market. Sir Terry said that if Tesco does enter the market, it would be via the internet.