The Co-op has offloaded a host of stores it acquired in the ill-fated purchase of Somerfield as it reshapes its core convenience estate.

The mutual has sold 86 properties to The Food Retailer Group, which is part of retail investor Hilco, for an undisclosed sum.

The sale of Somerfield Stores Limited, which was acquired in 2008 as part of the wider Somerfield deal, will see 36 trading stores and 50 more non-core sites, including shuttered stores, undeveloped land and other properties such as offices, transferred to The Food Retailer Group.

The Co-op said that the 36 trading stores would continue to trade as food stores and all 920 affected colleagues will be transferred, resulting in no redundancies.

It is unclear what name the operational stores will trade under following the sale, but sources said they will adopt the fascia of a “well-known retail brand”.

The deal is expected to be completed in July.

Convenience shift

It comes as the Co-op increases its focus on building its core convenience business and offloading larger stores as it bids to capitalise on the habits of time-poor consumers, who are increasingly shopping little and often.

According to the mutual’s full-year results to January 2, which it unveiled last month, like-for-like food sales increased 1.6%, while sales in its core convenience stores advanced 3.8%.

The Co-op has now enjoyed 12 successive quarters of like-for-like growth in its convenience estate and plans to open 100 new stores in 2016.

Co-op Food boss Steve Murrells said: “The Co-op Food business is moving forwards with a clear purpose and momentum, so we can deliver a compelling, convenient and co-operative shopping experience for millions of shoppers each day.

“It is essential that we have a proactive property programme in place to support our long-term growth strategy, and this sale aligns with that approach.”