The Midcounties Co-operative has bucked the economic downturn to report a 35 per cent uplift in full-year profits to £16.2m.

The community retailer, which operates businesses in areas including as food, funeral, travel, pharmacy and childcare, said that gross sales grew 5.1 per cent to £748m in the year to January 24.

The results were driven primarily by a 7.2 per cent increase in food sales, the retailer said.

Chief executive Ben Reid said the results showed that the Co-op business model worked while other systems that “rewarded personal greed” are now seen as flawed.

He said: “We aspire to trade profitably and ethically, to support our local communities and overseas Fairtrade suppliers and return a share of our profits to our members.”

Midcounties – which trades from more than 550 branches across Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands – recruited more than 50,000 new members during the year, more than twice as many as the previous year.

Reid said: “No one is in any doubt that the next year is going to present us all with real challenges. The Midcounties Co-operative is in good shape to be able to face these challenges head on.”

Midcounties has pushed its green agenda during the past year with initiatives such as appointing an energy and environment officer to cut waste and promote recycling.