The newly merged Co-operative Group has reported buoyant like-for-like sales growth for the Christmas period in its convenience stores.

The Co-operative Group and United Co-op, which merged in July, reported like-for-like sales up 6.2% in their 1,670 c-stores in the three weeks to 5 January, with a 3.4% increase overall for the 13 weeks to 5 January.

However, in the merged group's 500 supermarkets, like-for-like growth was just 1.6% and 1.7% over the same periods.

Stores also benefited from the ongoing rebranding programme under The Co-operative fascia, with sales up 12% in refitted c-stores and 11% in new-look supermarkets.

Guy McCracken, chief executive officer of food retail at the Co-operative Group, said big sellers across supermarkets and c-stores had included Freedom Food turkey, mince pies, seasonal biscuits, party food and Fairtrade products.

"Availability was also high and we had plenty of fresh produce for customers on Christmas Eve, as well as a sensible level of seasonal goods," he said.

McCracken, who leaves the society in the summer after three years, said its food stores were in great shape for the future. "This year will be very competitive but we have a good format, the right range and, combined with our ethical stance, I believe we are well placed for 2008," he added.

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