Retailers who take the plunge and implement a deli counter could enjoy 50% margins and increased footfall.

That is the advice from other retailers who have had success with a deli counter offering installed in their stores.

David Heritage, of Barns Green Village Stores in Horsham, often sees a 50% margin. “Deli is our most profitable department by far,” he said.

“For the first 16 days of March, 7% of our takings came solely from the deli counter. In the summer, when campers stock up for picnic lunches, sales go through the roof. And it’s great for Christmas, of course.”

Wastage can be a concern for retailers but Mr Heritage said he has found ways to minimise it.

“There are lots of creative opportunities to reduce waste: we’ll turn stale bread into bread-and-butter pudding, for example.”

Siva Thievanayagan, of Nisa Local Fletton, was ahead of the trend, establishing a deli counter in his Peterborough store 15 years ago.

“We’ve expanded it several times and recently I decided to make it as big as possible, doubling the size to six metres.

“Fresh is what people are looking for – I’d say 50% of any store should be fresh these days.”