Sainsbury is hoping to kickstart its move into the convenience sector by setting up shop with Shell. The multiple plans to open six Local c-stores on Shell forecourts in the south of England by next February. The first will appear by the end of October, two more will be operational before Christmas, with the last three due to open two months later. News of the deal is intriguing given that Shell has been investing heavily to build up Select as a national convenience store brand. But a Shell spokesman insisted: "This is an agreement for a limited number of sites and is a trial. It would be wrong to speculate about the demise of Select." The deal means Sainsbury is belatedly following the lead taken by arch rivals Safeway, Somerfield and Tesco in entering the forecourt arena. Apart from rumours that Esso tried to forge a joint venture with Sainsbury in 1995, the multiple has never shown any sign of being keen on such joint ventures. But Mark Rollmann, senior manager for Local, said: "We wanted to trial the c-store format as a standalone first. Now we have got it right we feel it's the right time to link up with another quality operator. We have taken a different sequence to other retailers." Nevertheless, this week's news lends credence to claims from c-store operators that Sainsbury has all but given up trying to find the sites necessary to grow Local as a standalone format. But Rollmann denied that Sainsbury's c-store venture had stalled. "We have a strong opening programme and are aggressively looking for sites. We want to grow Local as quickly as possible and this deal gives us another avenue to grow even quicker." Only last month group chief executive Sir Peter Davis admitted Sainsbury's plan to open 200 Locals by 2003 was far too ambitious. In the two years since the format first appeared, Sainsbury has opened just eight c-stores. Sir Peter thinks it can bring that up to 25 this year ­ not including the six Shell sites. The Shell sites chosen will have up to 12 car parking spaces and a store with room for at least four checkouts. {{NEWS }}