Tesco this week admitted it was no nearer opening standalone Express c-stores ­ seven months after announcing plans to launch them. However, Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy confirmed standalone sites were still in the pipeline ­ although he could not give any firm dates or sites. And he said tapping into the convenience market remained a priority for the multiple. "There is a huge opportunity in the UK for convenience retailing. At the moment we're opening more than one Express a week. Standalone sites will open in the UK and overseas this year or early next year." That news was greeted with dismay by independent retail groups. But they warned Tesco would have a battle on its hands to build up its estate as competition for sites is fierce. Costcutter chief executive Colin Graves said: "Standalone Express sites will be a big, big threat to independents. With its muscle and its money, I've no doubt Tesco will make a success of it. "The problem is getting suitable sites. Everyone is moving into our market now. You've got BP, Sainsbury, M&S and Budgens as well as all the usual suspects." Spar UK md Morton Middleditch said: "It's not helpful to have competition from such a good operator, but we have to get on with our business. "I'm confident that people in the bigger groups, with strong propositions, will be able to compete. He also felt Tesco would struggle to find sites: "Lots of the best sites are already occupied and it depends how much they are willing to spend to secure them." {{NEWS }}