Peter Marks announced his retirement as CEO of The Co-operative Group this week and warned that trading conditions in the society’s food business in the first half of the year had been “absolutely dreadful”.

Marks has led the society for the past six years. The planned retirement will see him step down at the society’s agm on 18 May next year.

His retirement was due to be announced earlier this year, but was delayed because Marks did not want the recent deal for The Co-op Group to acquire 632 Lloyds branches to “lose momentum”.

Marks insisted it would be “business as usual” until his departure. “My priority is to do the sale and purchase [of the Lloyds deal] and satisfy the Financial Services Authority,” he told The Grocer.

However, he hinted half-year trading figures to be released later this month would not make for pretty reading.”We’ve had a very tough first half. With the combination of the economy and the weather, it’s been absolutely dreadful,” he admitted. “We are operating in the worst economic climate for consumers in living memory, but I am really confident for the long term. We have been working on new format stores which are showing significant like-for-like growth.”

According to Kantar, The Co-op food sales were down 3.6% in the 12 weeks to 8 July, down 2.8% in the 12 weeks to 10 June and down 3.5% in the 12 weeks to 13 May.