Costcutter plans to rebadge its estate in the "18 months' breathing space" before Tesco's Express format takes off, said chairman and chief executive Colin Graves.
Speaking at Costcutter's annual supplier conference, he said the symbol chain was cracking down on retailer discipline and building defences, including a new licensed concept, a ramped up marketing package and an extended own label offer.
As a result of Tesco and the Co-operative Group extending their convenience portfolios, Graves predicted that Mace and Key Lekkerland would fall victim to consolidation in the convenience market, but that Londis, Spar and Costcutter would stay afloat.
He added: "What about the other multiples joining in the game? Safeway certainly works well with BP. And do we all think Asda is going to sit there and do nothing?"
Graves said Costcutter wanted to refresh all stores in the next two years to present a strong corporate image inside and out. Sales director David Thompson said the new look would cost retailers about £1,500 and that some subsidies were on offer from head office.
A trial has begun in Pocklington, Yorkshire, with new window signage and pictorials, Costcutter branding inside, vertical commodity signs and perspex shelving.
Costcutter has also launched a "licensed stores" concept, where it buys good sites to be run by a retailer who pays a £20,000 bond for stock. The retailer covers all operating costs and keeps profits or shoulders losses. Graves said: "We plan to bring 30 or 40 stores in a year to operate under licence."
Costcutter is also sending a team of category implementers out to its top 200 stores to put in place Costcutter planograms. The system will then to introduced to all stores.