The Co-operative Group has swallowed up Top 50 indie David Sands.

The purchase includes all 28 stores belonging to the Scottish retailer, which has 700 staff.

The Co-op said the two businesses had exchanged contracts and the sale was expected to be completed in the next couple of months, subject to approval from the Office of Fair Trading.

The multi-award winning David Sands placed 29th on The Grocer’s most recent Top 50 rankings of independent grocery retailers in the UK, notching up sales of £40m last year.

“This major acquisition is another important step in our plans to expand The Co-op’s food estate,” said group chief executive Peter Marks.

“The Sands stores will be a valuable addition to our food portfolio as we forge ahead with our programme to grow the business by seeking new opportunities at the heart of local communities right across the UK.”

Sands boss David Sands added: “There are many similarities and synergies between David Sands and The Co-op. We share many of the same values, including our commitment to supporting local suppliers.

“I have every confidence they will continue to invest in, grow and develop our stores and our people in the future.”

Meanwhile, The Co-op has reported a 0.2% decline in like-for-like food sales in the 13 weeks to 31 December. But like-for-likes rose 3.1% in the four weeks leading up to Christmas and by 16.1% in the final week of the pre-Christmas run-in.

“These results represent an encouragingly good performance in the very competitive markets in which we operate and in continuing difficult economic times,” Marks said.

“Against the backdrop of financial pressures on household budgets, our focus on quality and value and the fact that our food stores are located within communities struck a chord with customers.

“The food sales growth in December comes on the back of an improving LFL trend throughout the second half of the year. It is thanks to the hard work and outstanding customer service of all of our colleagues that these trading results have been achieved.”