FreshXpress is to spend £1m "straight away" sprucing up stores and replacing fascias at 24 stores. In an exclusive interview with The Grocer, CEO Paul Niklas said he had set a five-week deadline to get the chain's top 24 stores up to scratch. He will then carry out more radical makeovers on 10 further stores currently unable to make the most of its 'fresh' positioning. Niklas, who cherrypicked 56 former Kwik Save stores before putting 22 up for sale, plans to build the estate to about 60 stores in the near future, concentrated in the north east, north west and Midlands. "FreshXpress is starting on a secure, debt-free footing, with 100% private investment" (from Irish entrepreneur Brendan Murtagh), said Niklas. "We have enough investment to make it work, and that doesn't come cheap. We are not consumed in debt and are able to run the business how we want. " A newly opened blueprint store in St Helens, Merseyside, included loose fruit and veg, an in-store bakery and a deli. The number of lines had also doubled. Niklas was upbeat about signing new suppliers. Costcutter is currently supplying its stores, but there are no tie-ins, he said. The Marshalls Cross store is sourcing its fresh produce at Liverpool Wholesale Fruit Market and using Corbally's of Hyde to provide its fresh meat. "Our suppliers can be anybody," said Niklas. "If they're interested in becoming part of FreshXpress they should knock on my door." n Greengrocer Neil Watson has started legal proceedings against Kwik Save administrators KPMG. Watson, who runs a fruit and veg concession inside a now empty Kwik Save in Whittlesey, claims KPMG breached his lease by boarding up the doors. A spokesman for KPMG said: "An agreement has been made that Mr Watson can continue to trade temporarily through the rear of the shop." Analysis p24