Record results put Co-op back on acquisition trail

Co-operative Group, one of the UK's biggest food retailers, is on the acquisition trail following record interim results.

The grocer believes that an aggressive approach will help ensure success in the hard-fought food retail environment, especially in the light of the likely takeover of Safeway.

For the six months to June 28, Co-op notched up a 10 per cent increase in group income to£3.9 billion. Operating profit leaped by 49 per cent to£169.7 million. The food retail business increased sales by 27 per cent to£1.4 billion and like-for-like sales were up 4 per cent.

Over the past 12 months Co-op has acquired 600-strong Alldays and 130-strong Balfour for a total of£163 million.

Chief operating officer, retail, Malcolm Hepworth said: 'We are still looking to acquire more stores and are concentrating on regenerating our portfolio.'

Retail Knowledge Bank research director Robert Clark said: 'The figures are encouraging but Co-op has to ensure that when the economies of scale from the acquisitions have been worked through they keep the sales momentum going.'

The 1,800-strong Co-op is boosting its refurbishment programme next year and will transform more than 200 Alldays and Balfour stores to its own fascia at a cost of£18 million. Hepworth said that the average sales uplift for the 160 stores converted to date was 30 per cent.

- Value clothing retailer Ethel Austin is to open up to 20 outlets in Co-op food stores over the next year. The concessions will measure on average 1,500 sq ft (140 sq m).