Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society has grown sales by almost 6% for the first half of the year.

The society’s food business recorded growth of around 5% during the past six months, with like-for-like own-label food sales up 10.7%.

In other areas of its business, travel grew by almost 70%, and furniture sales were “ahead of market norms”.

Despite that, chief executive Tony Gudgeon gave a downbeat appraisal of the economic situation.

“This is probably the worst retail trading environment I can recall,” Gudgeon said. “It is very serious.”