Elaine Watson Morrisons is negotiating the purchase of a third major distribution centre to support its expansion plans in the south. Joint mds Bob Stott and Marie Melnyk said the new site was "more southerly based" to form a distribution triangle with existing depots in Wakefield and Northwich. "There are lots of places in the country where we are not represented," said Stott. "And we're working to make sure we have the infrastructure to support our expansion plans going forward." There is also cash in the bank for a significant acquisition should the opportunity arise, he added. In the meantime, Morrisons is always on the lookout for large stores not trading at their full potential as well as sites for new builds. Schroder Salomon Smith Barney analysts said Morrisons has the cash on the balance sheet "to move very quickly" to pick up a cluster of stores in the event of the break up of a major competitor. Speaking at the opening of the company's 114th store in Grays, Essex, Melnyk said sales per square foot had risen from £15.23 in 1996 to £20.35 in 2002, with basket spend and customer count both showing healthy increases this year. New features trialled at Grays include ready meal sections called Takeaway, and Eat Out ­ At Home, which are built into the Market Street of fresh food shops around the store's perimeter. Market Street is the focus of a major new advertising campaign, which is on air in all regions where Morrisons has stores. Featuring the strapline, More reasons to shop at Morrisons, the ads focus on the company's fresh food credentials and close attention to small details, such as hanging bananas instore to prevent bruising. "Our aim is to make the instore experience as delightful as we can," said Melnyk. "Customers can see staff preparing the fresh food, cutting meat to individual requirements, baking bread, creaming cakes and making flans and sundaes." {{NEWS }}