UK's Waitrose to open in motorway service stations

LONDON, April 1 (Reuters) - Waitrose, the upmarket grocery arm of employee-owned British retailer John Lewis [JLP.UL], has signed a franchise deal with motorway services firm Welcome Break to open shops in two of its service stations.

The deal will create 50 jobs and extend Waitrose’s reach to 9 million new customers, it said in a statement.

The first shop will open on May 1 at Oxford Services on the M40, one of Europe’s busiest motorway service stations, with the second opening at South Mimms on the M25, which orbits London, on May 15.

The two 2,500 square feet shops will be Waitrose’s smallest to date and will offer more than 850 product lines.

“This move into franchising and motorway service areas builds on our recent ventures into other new formats such as Market Town and Convenience -- all designed to provide flexibility around our growth ambitions and increase awareness of our brand,” said Waitrose Managing Director Mark Price.

Welcome Break has 28 service stations, and a spokesman for Waitrose, which is about to open its 200th store, said the two firms would see how the new shops performed before deciding whether to open any more. (Reporting by Mark Potter, editing by Will Waterman)