Marks & Spencer has denied reports of its secret plans to sell off its Simply Food convenience stores, according to The Guardian today.

The Mail on Sunday however, reported yesterday that the company had made plans to sell up to half of its poorly performing Simply Food stores and that it had circulated a list of stores to its rivals.

Simply Food was launched in 2001 with plans for 100 stores, but the expansion was halted at 87 stores soon after Stuart Rose joined as chairman.

The report yesterday explained that while the Simply Food format was a hit with customers, the company has always had problems making it pay, with the average spend across the board standing at just £4 per person.

Earlier this month Marks & Spencer announced a two per cent drop in like-for-like food sales for its first half of the year results, but the company also revealed plans to give its larger food areas a makeover to create a delicatessen-style atmosphere. The food range has also been cut by 12% this year.