Co-op has unveiled plans to invest £160m this year in 100 new food stores and “major makeovers” at 150 existing shops.  

More than 20 of the new stores will be in London, with up to 18 in Scotland, 10 in Wales and the remainder in English cities including York, Plymouth and Bristol. 

The expansion programme – aimed at growing Co-op’s share of the “challenging” UK grocery market and bolstering its convenience credentials – will create around 1,600 new jobs.

It comes after Co-op became the exclusive supplier to 2,200 Costcutter Group stores following the collapse of wholesaler Palmer & Harvey. 

The grocer also struck a deal late last year to buy Nisa Retail, the completion of which is subject to Competition and Markets Authority approval.

Co-op food chief executive Jo Whitfield said: “The Co-op is positively responding to the changes occurring within this dynamic sector.

“Our food business is going from strength to strength in what is clearly a challenging retail market. We have the ambition for our stores to be at the heart of local life, bringing communities together and offering our members and customers great quality products when and where they need them.”

Its director of portfolio and development Stuart Hookins added that, if this year’s expansion programme is successful, the grocer will have opened at least 100 new stores every year for three years. 

“With over one million new active members joining us in the last year, we are always looking for new locations to get closer to where our members and customers live and work and to meet their shopping needs conveniently,” he said.