High street general merchandise retailer Wilkinson is stepping up its grocery offer by trialling the sale of a wide range of food products in 20 stores.

The company, which is based in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, previously sold confectionery, toiletries and petcare products among more than 25,000 branded and Wilko brand products for homes and gardens.

But now it has decided to branch out into a further 600 branded convenience food lines, including pre-packed sandwiches, fresh bread, salads, tinned and chilled items.

It is also launching cereals, biscuits and pasta sauces in the pilot stores, which are mainly in city centre locations.

“This trial does not signal a departure from our core offers or existing ranges,” said Shaun Gunn, head of marketing at Wilkinson. “We are just reacting to the demands of our customers and will carry out a thorough evaluation in the fullness of time.”

Gunn said that shoppers had reacted positively. “Results are very encouraging straight away. Our customers seem to view convenience food as complementing the other ranges at Wilkinson.”

A store in Whitehaven, Cumbria, was used as one of the first to promote the new lines. A family day was held with free sweets and balloons for children to highlight the new offer.

Wilkinson currently has more than 260 stores across England and Wales and aims to have 370 by 2010.

The chain is not the only predominantly non food retailer muscling in on grocery. Ikea last year launched its first own label food range.