The Going for Blue' convenience store refurbishment programme is driving growth at the food division of United Norwest, according to the UK's second largest co-operative society. Pretax profits for the group were up 16% to £7.8m on sales up 18% to £434.5m, largely through the recent acquisitions of 40 c-stores plus a supermarket from Somerfield, bringing the society's portfolio to 690 outlets. However, larger stores had been badly hit by increasing price competition and the Wal-Mart effect. "We'll invest in stores that have a medium to long-term future," a spokesman said, "but we are looking to dispose of stores that don't fit those criteria." No like for like figures were available but he admitted superstores had seen "no real growth". "There has already been a significant uplift in sales at stores that have converted to the new blue and aqua fascia," he added. "We're delighted with the results so far. We're also making progress on reducing backroom costs." Chief executive Martin Beaumont said the group was "well on the way to the best year in our history" despite "very tough trading conditions". {{NEWS }}

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