M&S could be part of a BP Connect franchise package in the future, according to Howard Nunn, BP’s European franchise development manager.

The company has recently announced plans to roll-out its BP Connect/Wild Bean Café brands to dealers in a franchise arrangement following a successful trial at two sites earlier this year.

Ten sites are expected to be converted by the end of the first three months of next year in the north west and Midlands with others following. Nunn said five of the franchise sites would be existing co-owned sites that would be sold, and five would be existing dealer sites that will convert to the Connect franchise. BP hopes the franchise package will prove popular enough to have a network of 150 Connect franchise sites by 2010.

News of the Connect franchise roll-out followed confirmation that M&S had agreed in principle to roll-out its Simply Food format in 200 Connect sites. The two brands have been operating together on 11 trial sites which have proved very successful according to BP, with 97% of customers rating the offer as good/very good/excellent. Shop sales have also increased significantly with transaction numbers up by 60%, and average basket size increased.

Though hesitant to comment, as contracts have yet to be concluded, Nunn said there was an indication that both parties - BP & M&S - would like to conduct a franchise test in 2007. "If that was successful, we would potentially look to roll that out," he said. "We’re confident the Connect package stands up without M&S, but with it - that would be a bonus."

A BP spokesperson said of the M&S roll-out: "We’ve proved we can operate the stores to the required standard cost-effectively. The link with M&S will further differentiate BP in the marketplace, creating a unique, compelling customer offer. It will provide customers with a selected range of M&S high-quality food, including sandwiches, ready meals, fresh produce, wine, flowers and basic groceries alongside the Wild Bean Café, multi-branded impulse offer and Ultimate fuels."