EXCLUSIVE Anne Bruce Tesco is to open its first standalone Express convenience store in Southborough, near Tunbridge Wells, in late October. The Grocer revealed last September that Tesco was keen to roll out the profitable forecourt format without a petrol filling station adjunct. The licensed Southborough c-store will be one of two Express sites scheduled to open in 2002, with the second coming on stream in November or December. Tesco corporate affairs manager Martin Venning said: "We have said we are seeking to expand and develop the Express brand within Tesco. The challenge is to find appropriate places to do that. We need to grow not just quickly but with prudence ­ building the right type of store in the right type of location." Tesco is to experiment with a number of standalone Express c-stores in out or edge of town sites in the course of 2003, favouring new builds, and keeping Metro for high street locations. Venning said: "Developing a standalone Express in the near future is uppermost in our minds. We need to experiment with different situations where Express might be appropriate, using our experience from recent store openings. We are very clearly aware that we are dependent on the actions of others in areas like planning as we look at ways to develop the brand." Industry rivals claim Tesco will struggle to find suitable standalone sites for Express. That has been borne out at the Express launchpad in Southborough, where there is vehement local opposition to its proposals. The local council initially turned down the Tesco application, and it has only just gone through on appeal. Tesco launched its Express c-store format in 1994, but so far it has only been used as an adjunct to Esso petrol forecourts at 85 sites, with a couple at its own filling stations. It plans to open 48 forecourt Express stores in the UK this year as well as the trial standalones. Top performing Tesco Express stores turn over £100,000 a week said Tesco finance director Andrew Higginson. Grant Leggat owns Southborough Stores, the main local supermarket, on the same road as the Tesco development. It takes about £23k a week, serving 1,000 familiar faces a day. He said: "We are hoping that Tesco will serve through- traffic and that our regular customers remain loyal. We have just got a beers, wines and spirits licence which should help attract customers. We are disappointed on behalf of the local community. Their views have been completely overlooked." {{NEWS }}