Co-op pledges to create 1,600 jobs in 2018 with 100 new stores

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The Co-op will invest £1.6m in new stores and refurbishments (Source: The Co-op)

The Co-op has confirmed it will create 1,600 jobs in the UK this year, as plans to open 100 new food stores go ahead.

A further 150 existing stores will also receive a makeover as part of the community retailer's £160m investment plans.

At least 20 new stores will open in London.

Read more: Nisa members have voted in favour of Co-op's takover offer

"Our food business is going from strength to strength in what is clearly a challenging retail market," commented Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food. "We have the ambition for our stores to be at the heart of local life, bringing communities together and offering our Members and customers great quality products when and where they need them.”

The announcement follows aggressive moves by Co-op to strengthen its convenience store presence. Last year it reached a deal to buy member-owned convenience chain Nisa, and also benefited from the collapse of Palmer & Harvey by signing a supply deal with Costcutter.

Competition in the space has been hotting up since Tesco announced its intention to take over Booker for £3.7bn, a deal which was cleared by the competition watchdog last month. Meanwhile Amazon's buyout of Whole Foods has prompted a shakeup the sector internationally.

Read more: Amazon's Whole Foods deal was the fastest big US retail acquisition ever

Mark Brumby, an analyst at Langton Capital, said that the ambitious opening of 100 new stores was "against the trend".