Tesco-owned convenience business One Stop Stores is to trial a new franchise model with independent retailers that will pit it against symbol group giants Spar and Booker.

The 640-store retailer, acquired by Tesco for £325m from T&S Stores in 2003, has embarked on a hunt for independent retailers to trade under the One Stop brand name.

The retailer said that through the partnership franchisees will “gain access to One Stop’s low cost operating and distribution model” as well as receiving investment and expertise.

The move would pit One Stop against major players in the highly competitive symbol group market. Booker’s Premier fascia, Budgens-owner Musgrave, Costcutter, Spar and Nisa are looking to increase their store estate through recruitment of new retailers.

It will continue to open company-owned stores alongside franchise shops.

One Stop chief executive Tony Reed said: “One Stop is a successful brand with over 20 years’ experience in the convenience market.  Our customers regularly tell us that they love our great prices, promotions, range and service; and these endorsements are reflected in our consistent growth.”

He added: “Independents offer years of local relationships and commitment to their customers. We want to preserve this and in turn offer our expertise in distribution and store proposition.”

The move comes as the convenience grocery market is enjoying strong growth. Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Morrisons are among those looking to win spend in a sector the IGD estimates will be worth £44bn by 2017, up from £34bn last year.

Tesco enjoyed a busy Easter weekend at its Express convenience fascia as Sunday trading laws on larger stores drove shoppers to its smaller shops..

A spokeswoman said: “Tesco Express stores remained open across the bank holiday weekend to offer customers the usual range of grocery staples, along with Easter treats such as chocolate eggs and hot cross buns. Our Express stores proved particularly popular with customers shopping for their last minute bank holiday essentials.”