Marks & Spencer has opened the first of four trial Simply Food c-stores at railway sites. The store opened on Thursday at Liverpool Street station in London, and will be followed by stores at Victoria station due to open this Thursday, and one at Marylebone station in the first week of January. The site of the fourth store has not been announced, but Food Business Unit director Justin King indicated it may be outside London. He said: "If we can learn enough from three London sites it may be that we will test the proposition in the provinces." Unlike the first two Simply Food stores in Twickenham and Surbiton in south London, the station stores have been set up in partnership with SSP, an arm of the world's biggest foodservice company Compass, which is the largest operator of c-stores and foodservice sites at transport hubs in the UK. King said the partnership had provided access to real estate within stations, and M&S was benefiting from SSP's goods inwards facilities and expertise in operating within stations. The three sites identified so far have all been on former sites of SSP's Whistlestop c-store chain. King said the railway stores would look the same as the first two stores from the outside, but the range inside would be considerably smaller, partly due to the smaller space available. While there are 1,400 lines and 3,000 sq ft in Surbiton, Liverpool, Street has 1,000 lines and 2,200 sq ft. The range at Liverpool Street is also more heavily skewed towards food to go and ready meals. However, data from SSP suggests that up to a third of purchases could be made by non passengers, with lunchtime purchases by office workers and local residents, particularly around Marylebone, using the stores in the evenings. King reiterated the target of 20 sites for High Street Simply Food stores to be identified by the end of March, and said that although they would be "south-east biased", one or two could be in the provinces. He said the stores would be concentrated in town centres, but did not rule out smaller centres of population if the proposition proved strong enough. l Marks and Spencer has appointed Helen Buck as head of marketing for its Food Business Unit. King commented: "Helen has huge retail experience including format development work with Safeway on its forecourt partnership with BP." {{NEWS }}