United Co-operatives is pressing on with an aggressive refurbishment programme in the second half after revamped stores drove food retail like for like sales increases topping 4% in the first half.

Underlying trading profit jumped to £20.5m in the 26 weeks to July 26 from £13.6m on sales up from £606m to £848m.

Food group general manager Tim Hurrell said: “Like-for-like sales in food were 4% in the first half and we’ve seen an improvement on that in the first few weeks of the second half.”

The society, which is pumping £20m into new acquisitions and refurbishments in grocery retail this financial year, acquired nine new food stores over the period and is looking at any stores up to 12,000sq ft, including divested Safeway stores, added Hurrell. “We are seeing sales uplifts of more than 20% in refurbished stores, mainly by increasing the fresh participation.”

The UK’s second largest co-op, United was created in September from the merger of United Co-op and Yorkshire Co-op, and runs 479 food stores across Yorkshire, Lancashire and North Wales.