Co-op begins year with £160m expansion

The Co-op is starting 2018 with ambitious expansion plans with a £160 million investment in 100 new food stores.

The group plans to open 20 new stores in London, 18 in Scotland, 10 in Wales and others in cities such as Plymouth and Bristol. The retail group will also give major makeovers to a further 150 stores.

“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,” said Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food.

“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.”

Last year saw Co-op drop to the sixth position among top UK supermarkets. Co-op was overtaken by discount supermarket Aldi.

Aldi and Lidl are also rapidly expanding their growth, both filed for at least 90 planning ­applications for new supermarkets last year, according to Barbour ABI.

In contrast, rivals such as Tesco (LON: TSCO), Asda and Sainsbury’s (LON: SBRY) have all slowed growth plans amid changing consumer habits, where shoppers are increasingly likely to shop online.

In November last year, the Co-op finalised a deal to supply 2,500 Costcutter shops across the UK in Spring this year.

The deal came two weeks after the group gained approval from Nisa members for its £143 million takeover of the convenience chain.

Co-op chairman, Allan Leighton, said the group’s half-year results in September were “now in pretty good shape, growing sales and delivering profits and delivering for customers”.

The Co-op made underlying pre-tax profits of £14 million in the first half of 2017. This was down by 48 percent compared to the same period in 2016.