The idea that a privately-owned retail chain would jump into bed with a supermarket multiple to run trials of a new convenience store format would have been unthinkable a few months ago.
But, as you will have read on page eight of this week's issue, that is exactly what TM Retail is doing with Somerfield. The rationale underpinning this extraordinary tie-up is simple: each chain believes it can leverage the other's particular operational strengths, and in the process create a unique c-store shopping experience.
Now, it would be easy to dismiss their venture as a marriage of convenience. But I think the two chains should be applauded for thinking what for many is still pretty unthinkable.
For TM, the relationship is all about gaining access to the fresh foods vital for any convenience offer to be successful; for Somerfield, the pilot will provide invaluable knowledge about how to run small stores.
Don't forget: T&S Stores was looking to strike up a similar relationship with Tesco ­ and their talks led directly to the former's takeover in a deal that has shaken the entire convenience market.
I am not suggesting that any merger between TM and Somerfield is on the cards. But what fascinates me is the way in which new alliances such as theirs are now being forged in the wake of the T&S takeover and the Alldays acquisition by the Co-operative Group.
Outgoing T&S boss Jim McCarthy told us a few weeks back that the Tesco deal would lead to a step change in convenience retailing. "Other outlets and retail groups must sit up and take notice and have the right range at the right price and in the right places," he warned.
McCarthy is absolutely right. But there are signs that the best independents are waking up to the challenges now faced by the sector and formulating new strategies to ensure they continue prospering ­ whatever else retail consolidation brings in the future. Those strategies range from the obvious ­ join a symbol group like Spar ­ to more radical ideas such as that being explored by TM.
But, as I said at the start, sleeping with the "enemy" is perfectly okay. It's inaction that is totally unacceptable.