C-store and CTN chain Martin McColl has joined forces with Smiths News to form an innovative category alliance designed to boost sales of news and magazines.

From next month Martin McColl will use Smiths staff and services to support the news business in its 1,350 stores. The companies will work together to agree ranging and merchandising of the news and magazine category as well as promotions within Martin McColl stores.

"This demonstrates that in today's competitive marketplace collaboration is the best way of securing future growth," said Martin McColl trading director Tony Start.

"Martin McColl now has access to the tremendous expertise and systems within the UK's largest news wholesaler. The news category has always been a key element in our trading mix and now we can look forward to developing the category even further."

Meanwhile, Martin McColl confirmed it would be rebranding the 92-strong Smile Stores business, which it bought last week, to carry its own McColl's and Martin's fascias, as we predicted.

However, the process would not begin until next year. The immediate priority was getting the Smile stores set up on the group's EpoS systems, said Paul Taylor, Martin McColl general manager, marketing.

The chain is due to roll-out a new EpoS system and hopes to have it installed in all stores by the end of next year. However, Taylor said it would be installing the existing EpoS system in the Smile business as it was wary of putting untested equipment in the new business.

"It's a bit of a nuisance but we will just have to come back with the new EpoS at a later stage," he explained.

Taylor confirmed that the Smile deal, which is believed to have taken seven months of negotiations to complete, would not be the last of its acquisitions.

"We are looking to add quality rather than quantity," he said. "We have bought 50 stores from

independents this year and will continue this process next year."