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LONDON Jan 8 Britain's troubled Co-operative
Group posted a 1 percent rise in like-for-like sales in its
Christmas quarter, helped by a strong performance at its smaller
convenience food stores in the key trading period.
The Co-op, a well-known high street presence for its bank
and supermarkets, was hit last year by a capital
crisis at its bank and an ensuing scandal over the unit's former
chairman who was arrested as part of an investigation into the
supply of illegal drugs.
Co-op Bank has since fallen under the control of
bondholders including U.S. hedge funds after the 1.5 billion
pound ($2.5 billion) capital shortfall was exposed.
Despite these problems the group, which in addition to its
stores also sells a wide range of services from funerals to
legal advice, said underlying sales were up 1 percent in the 13
weeks to January 4, fuelled by strong trading at its smaller
convenience food stores, which posted growth up 3.2 percent.
It said sales in the three weeks to Jan. 4 were particularly
strong, with core convenience stores reporting like-for-like
growth of 5.4 percent.
"Looking ahead, we believe that our core convenience stores
should continue their strong performance," Steve Murrells, the
Co-op's chief executive of retail at the Co-op, said.
All of Britain's major grocers have adapted in recent years
to operating more small local stores to appeal to those
consumers who prefer to buy little and often and to do so around
the corner rather than going to out of town superstores.
Euan Sutherland, group chief executive, said the strong food
sales reflected the loyalty of its customers despite the
headlines about the problems at its bank.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Greg Mahlich)