99p Stores unveiled a new format at its 250th store opening in Northampton this week. The Grocer was there, and we were impressed by the in-store bakery offer, the more spacious aisles, and the ramped-up fresh food section (pxx and see more pictures and analysis online).

“99p Stores is taking on a bewildering array of rivals - from M&S to Greggs”
Jon Yeomans, web editor

As COO Tony Brown told us: “99p Stores are no longer completely price driven: they’re about the product, ambience, the store.” With respect, ambience is not something the discounter has been known for until now. Still, you can’t help but admire its leap towards the grocery mainstream, with not just pastries, but takeaway coffee and fresh meats too. Convenience is one of the few growth areas in the industry, while 99p Stores is not alone in gambling on food-to-go.

With food-to-go in particular, it is taking on a bewildering array of rivals - M&S Simply Food, Greggs, Pret a Manger and even Delice de France, which helped set up its bakery in the first place. I can’t help think there is finite space for this type of offer. But it had to do something.

Its gambit may not trouble the big bakeries, but 99p Stores has certainly thrown down the gauntlet to single-price rivals.