The East of England Co-operative Society plans to update its stores after posting an 11.4% rise in profit, chief executive Richard Samson said last week.

The society, which is the third-largest independent consumer co-operative in the country and the biggest independent retailer in East Anglia, reported a £9.72m rise in profit due to a strong performance by its core food business were like-for-like sales were up 3%. Overall group sales were up 5.3% to £441m.

"We will look to acquire more stores," said Samson. "But a major part of our work over the next 12 months will involve refurbishing existing stores. We need to do a considerable amount of updating."

The society is investing £1.2m in upgrading its trading outlets in Felixstowe and spending £1.4m on doubling the size of its food store in the Suffolk village of Elmswell. Improvements are also being carried out at stores in Kelvedon and Wivenhoe.

The society had achieved "an excellent result in what was undoubtedly a challenging year", he said, citing the very disciplined central buying unit - the Co-operative Retail Trading Group - as a key factor in the society's success.

"I am extremely pleased that we will be distributing more than £4m in dividends to our 520,000 members across the region, equating to 2.5% of qualifying purchases, compared with 2.1% last year," said Samson.

"Once again we anticipate being one of the leading major UK consumer co-operatives in terms of dividends awarded to members. We are all working hard to build an even stronger platform for future growth."

The society would continue to work closely with Tastes of Anglia - the regional food and drink marketing group - in promoting the sourcing of local produce, Samson said, adding that this commitment had been underlined by the society's appointment of a dedicated local sourcing manager.