Midcounties Co-operative has reported a rise in sales and record half-year profits, but is still forecasting that 2011 will be a ‘tough year’ because of the forthcoming public sector job cuts.

Sales were up by 6.1% to £375m and trading profit rose by 34% to £16.1m, due to a good performance at the food stores, pharmacies, travel agencies, funerals and childcare businesses.

Chief executive Ben Reid said that he was confident that when it reported its full-year results next May, it would prove to be a “record trading year”. But he tempered this optimism, saying: “Despite these very promising figures, I can only foresee that 2011 will be another tough year, with all of the predicted public sector cuts underway. Sales growth will be hard to achieve, but that will be our focus, as we push hard to emerge fitter and stronger for the future.”

Reid said that the Co-operative’s long-term commitment to responsible retailing was paying off with the current trend for ethical shopping.

“I believe more people are reassessing their spending habits and placing greater emphasis on the ethical values of service providers. This means our customers are realising the importance of the co-operative way of doing business,” he said.

Midcounties Co-operative is based in Oxford and Walsall and covers Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and surrounding counties. It is the second largest independent co-operative society in the UK and is a £790m business with more than 450 branches, 8,500 employees and 430,000 members.