Convenience group T&S Stores has called a top level meeting with suppliers as part of a major drive to boost its ready meals offering. Frozen and chilled ready meals represent a "huge growth opportunity" for T&S, said chief executive James McCarthy, "but our current arrangements are a complete hotch potch". At the meeting, due to be held in November, suppliers will be given the task of "developing a credible range of ready meal solutions that can be bought locally, purchased in the right quantities, packaged beautifully and priced sensibly". And if they do not share the T&S vision, they could well lose its custom, McCarthy said. "We're rationalising our range and if necessary, our suppliers." He also revealed the chain had struck a deal with Iceland to sell Iceland own label frozen ready meals. Trials of the Iceland range are already under way in four stores and a rollout is on the cards should they prove successful. "Iceland is potentially a huge brand in its own right," said McCarthy. Key initiatives to develop the service side of the business are also progressing well. "Rather than just pushing for a larger spend during visits, the aim is to expand our customer base," he explained. "ATMs are a customer magnet, and their rapid rollout is part of our key proposition. By the year end, we'll have 400." As the mobile phone operators make the transition from vouchers to electronic top up, T&S is talking to "various service providers," although no formal contracts have yet been drawn up. It is also developing its web offer with plans to introduce 15 instore internet kiosks by the end of the year and 500 by the close of 2001 to capitalise on the growth of online shopping. If e-shopping takes off, T&S is well positioned to take advantage, said McCarthy. More than 700 stores already serve as pick up points for the Collectpoint home delivery service enabling shoppers to collect online purchases at their local store. Although the service is still in its "embryonic stages", it only took seven or eight parcels to "pass through our hands for us to do nicely". - See pp 10 and 62 {{NEWS }}