Waitrose is working on a smaller format of upmarket stores, which has been given the provisional title Waitrose Marketplace.
The resultant boost in the retailer's store numbers could mean that its suppliers will be called upon to drive up the amount of products supplied and delivery frequencies to the Waitrose estate.
It is understood that there will be opportunities for small local firms to supply food and drink to the stores, chiming with Waitrose's established policy of supporting regionally sourced products.
One of the ideas believed to be on the drawing board at the moment is that the stores could have a strong emphasis on delicatessen-style chilled and fresh food to take away.
Instore bakeries are being considered as part of the offering and Waitrose is also looking at ramping up its own label offering within the new shops.
The project accords with the 2008 annual report and accounts document for John Lewis Partnership, of which Waitrose is a part, which says: "Waitrose aims to increase sales by continuing to extend its store presence whilst improving its core customer offer and focus on improving price perceptions. New physical space will demonstrate a refreshed store environment and we remain committed to new store formats and channels to reach customers currently out of reach."
The initial tranche of Waitrose Marketplace stores are being redeveloped from leasehold properties that the company has secured.
Two trial stores are planned for holiday towns in Devon and two for London, in Kensington and Belgravia.
While the project is still at the planning stage, each store is estimated to cost about £200,000 to develop.
Several sites across the UK are being considered for roll out of the format, with clusters in urban locations, some of these concentrated in the south east.
The exact number of stores being planned is unknown, as is the total amount that is being invested in the project.
Waitrose refused to comment about the project. A spokeswoman said: "Any plans we have are commercially sensitive."
Waitrose currently operates 185 stores across England, Scotland and Wales. Its supermarket locations range from those on the high street to edge-of-town sites. Stores vary in size from 650 metres squared to about 5,202 metres squared.