United Norwest Co-op has reported its sixth successive year of rising profits. The society ­ the country's second biggest after CWS ­ reported a 65% jump in pre-tax profit in the 12 months ending January 22. Excluding exceptionals, profit was up 10% to £14.3m. Sales rose from £739m in 1999 to £787m as a result of food and pharmacy acquisitions. The society says all four core businesses ­ food, funerals, travel and health care ­ increased profit. Chief executive Martin Beaumont said: "We consolidated our position as the community retailer, with the acquisition of 26 Dawn Til Dusk food c-stores and a further sixteen other branches. "Our progress has also allowed us to finance our highest ever capital investment programme of more than £47m whilst still keeping gearing at a comfortable level of 41%." The go it alone society ­ which has dismissed any idea of merging with CWS or joining the CRTG buying group ­ pledged to continue acquiring individual stores and groups of stores. A second group acquisitions manager, Peter Hosey, has been appointed to source sites in the north of United Norwest's trading region, with existing group acquisitions manager John Pheysey sourcing property in the south. Three new sites have been acquired recently and the remaining Nevins, Hanburys and Alfred Jones stores yet to be converted to the United Norwest fascia will be changed in the next 12 months. United Norwest has also completed the revamp of the 17,000 sq ft Somerfield store in Frodsham, Cheshire, it acquired in January and reopened as a Food Market. The store was closed for three days during conversion when new features such as a food to go section were installed. The society has also maintained the store's home delivery service, which it plans to expand. Store manager Adrian Holder said: "We are going to build on the service developed by Somerfield and have already converted it from one which was paper based to an electronic system with a database of customers." Deliveries are made six days a week and are free for orders over £25. {{NEWS }}