Waitrose has appointed Anthony Wysome as head of convenience to oversee a new wave of small shops, the first of which could open early next year.

Wysome was promoted from senior project manager to take charge of plans to expand into the £27.4bn convenience market.

Wysome studied at Sheffield University and then joined Sainsbury's as a buyer. Prior to joining Waitrose he was a self-employed retail analyst.

Despite going head to head with Marks & Spencer's Simply Food, Tesco Express, Sainsbury's Local and a host of other players, Waitrose had made the right decision to enter convenience, said analysts. "It makes sense for Waitrose to open convenience stores and I am surprised it has not done so before," said Shore

Capital's Clive Black.

Trial stores are to open within six to nine months and others will follow if they prove successful.

Waitrose refused to divulge the likely locations of the trial stores, which are expected to be between 3,000 and 4,000 sq ft, or how many it planned.

Although some customers are trading down as a result of the credit crunch, Black was confident the stores would be a success if the right locations were chosen. "Waitrose has the opportunity to meet customers' needs in places such as London as people walk more and need to park cars less," he added.

The plans are likely to come as unwelcome news to M&S in particular. Its like-for-like food sales have dropped by 4.5% and food director Steve Esom left the company this month.

Waitrose's plans for small shops follow its launch of three 13,000 sq ft Market Town stores that offer more locally sourced produce and fresh food. Its fourth Market Town store is set to open in Brackley, Northamptonshire, next week.