The Co-operative Group is selling off its 36-strong department store network.

The Co-op said that it plans to exit the sector within the next two years and is in talks with Anglia Regional Co-operative Society, which is considering acquiring a number of them.

Paul Hewitt, deputy chief executive of the group, said: “This was a very difficult decision to make but at the end of the day, a necessary one. We operate in fiercely competitive markets and this business is a continuing major drain on our resources.”

He added that the group would be closing ten of its biggest loss making department stores next February, resulting in the loss of 71 full-time and 70 part-time jobs.

Co-op also said that it would sell its television rental business, which employs 56 people.

Earlier this year the Co-op revealed that it was offloading 100 of its worst performing stores in an effort to tidy up its portfolio. It also slashed 600 jobs from its head office as part of a cost-cutting and efficiency drive.