Waitrose is expected to take on convenience stores such as Sainsbury’s Local and M&S Simply Food by launching a rival version.
The stores are likely to be a similar size to Tesco Express branches.
Waitrose said it hoped to trial the concept within six to nine months.
Marks & Spencer
The move is likely to signal an even fiercer battle for customers during the credit crunch and in particular put more pressure on Marks & Spencer (M&S), which this month revealed a 4.5% drop in food sales.
Earlier this year, a Which? survey of shopper satisfaction found Waitrose and M&S occupied first and second places respectively in the groceries category, and Waitrose came top overall.
Waitrose has already launched a new shop format specifically for market towns, with stores opening recently in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, and Buckingham, Buckinghamshire.
Market town stores
A further store is due to open soon in Brackley, Northamptonshire.
The market town stores will be about half the size of a large Waitrose.
They will include more locally produced food and drink and more emphasis on fresh food.
Waitrose managing director Mark Price said: ‘What we’ve aimed to do is reflect the ambience of a traditional grocery shop by focusing on the sense of community and service associated with our brand.’