The Co-operative Group has posted a 1% drop in like-for-like food sales for the past six months, bringing to an end 16 consecutive quarters of sales growth.

The society said like-for-likes had been impacted by the disruption of integrating Somerfield stores into the business.

But like-for-like sales in stores rebranded to The Co-op’s fascia rose 2.5% in the half-year to 3 July.

Total food sales rose 11.5% to £3.9bn, with underlying trading profit up 12.6% to £169.7m.

Chief executive Peter Marks said the society had made “significant progress” integrating Somerfield following the 2008 takeover and remained on track to complete the transition by the first quarter of 2011. But he was cautious about the year ahead.

“As anticipated, 2010 has been challenging so far, with tough economic conditions across all our businesses,” Marks warned.

“Looking ahead, we do not expect things to improve until late 2011 at the earliest.”

Read more
Can The Co-op stem the leak in ex-Somerfield store sales? (analysis; 8 May 2010)
Marks defiant as leak reveals drop in sales at Somerfield sites (8 May 2010)
As buying power increases, Marks’s promises are cheap (analysis; 20 March 2010)