Tesco has dismissed reports that it plans to double the size of its Tesco Express convenience chain in the UK - but admitted it sees scope to enlarge the business.

According to the Sunday Times, the retailer told City analysts in a private briefing that it hopes to double the size of its convenience store empire. Tesco currently has around 1,000 smaller stores and believes there is the potential for 2,000, the paper reported.

However, Tesco said today (16 November) that, while the company has not set a specific target on the number of stores, it believes the chain has the potential to grow.

"Convenience is a growing market for retailers of which Tesco has a small share. So there is room for more Express stores in sites where there is consumer demand but we haven't set a target," the company said in a statement.

"Our customers tell us convenience is important to them and they like being able to walk to their store. Express stores create jobs in the heart of communities and Tesco has a strong track record in developing sites in disadvantaged areas which have been overlooked by other retailers."

A spokesperson for Tesco told just-food that the media reports reflected a number of comments made by a member of the the retail giant's board.

"The point that he was making in the course of that briefing was that there is still scope within the UK market for more but what we were not doing was setting a target," he said.

In September, upmarket UK retailer chain Waitrose announced plans to "dramatically" increase its presence in the country with plans to expand further into the convenience sector.

The group said it intends to double its size between 2006 and 2015. Waitrose's annual revenues for the year to 27 January 2006 stood at GBP3.7bn (US$5.98bn).