The Co-operative Group has been forced to defend stores and staffing levels on its Facebook page.

The 42-comment thread was started by a shopper who claimed store standards had declined and staff numbers had been “cut dramatically” since new management had arrived at its Manchester HQ.

“While I can accept the odd few pence on a product, a decline in standards is not acceptable,” the shopper added.

In its response, The Co-op Group said: “We, as have many other businesses, have had to make changes. Some of these will stay and others won’t but it was important we didn’t continue on the same path. We are listening, we do care and where we recognise issues, we do act but changes can take time.”

Sales have struggled since 2010, a year after it took on the Somerfield chain. However, in the past few months trading has been on the up after it started trialling new store formats and ranges.

This week, Kantar Worldpanel data revealed that sales rose 0.1% in the 12 weeks to 23 December 2012 - the first time since May 2009 that Co-op and Somerfield combined have recorded growth.