Waitrose is poised for its first foray into Northern Ireland, newly appointed MD Mark Price told The Grocer this week.

Price, who plans to double Waitrose's sales to £8bn over the next decade, said lessons learned from a successful entry to Scotland last year could help it to break into the province.

"The successful opening of stores in more challenging markets such as Scotland has given us the confidence we can move the brand into a large variety of different areas," he said.

"There would be a number of logistical challenges to opening in Northern Ireland, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out in the medium term," he said.

The retailer would also benefit from the experience of parent company the John Lewis Partnership, which has just been given the green light for a major retail development in the Lisburn area of Northern Ireland later this year.

Price also confirmed speculation that Waitrose would introduce smaller, more convenience-orientated stores under his leadership.

"We already have a 3,000 sq ft store in Windsor, which is trading exceptionally well, and we will open more smaller format stores in the future," he said.

This move would bring Waitrose into direct competition with M&S's Simply Food format.

But Price said he was unfazed by the fact that he would now be going head-to-head with his former boss Steven Esom, who is now heading up Marks & Spencer's food division.

"Waitrose has a robust set of plans in place and we are confident of achieving them," he said.

Other priorities included improving the quality and service levels at Waitrose stores and kicking off a major green initiative later this month, he added.

From 14 May customers at 14 Waitrose stores will be able to check out via 'green tills'.

Customers who choose to use these will not be offered any plastic bags and will be expected to bring in used carrier bags from home or buy Waitrose's Bags For Life.

The retailer will issue free Bags for Life two weeks before the initiative starts. If successful the trial could be rolled out across the entire Waitrose estate.