The Co-operative Group has posted a decline of 2.1% in like-for-like food sales for 2011. In its preliminary results for the 52 weeks to December 31, 2011, the group’s food sales were down from £7.3bn in 2011 to £7.1bn last year.

The group failed to fully recover after a poor first half in 2011 which saw a sales decline of 3.6%. Although the second half of the year improved, at no point did they experience an increase in like-for-like sales.

Group chief executive Peter Marks cited increased economic uncertainty as the reason for the decline.

“2011 was a time of severe challenge for the UK economy and for our millions of customers and members,” said Marks. “Consumers have been assailed by rising costs, credit squeeze and uncertainty about the future to an extent unparalleled in recent times. Against this background, I believe that this is a creditable performance. We have delivered profitability in-line with expectations, while maintaining our financial strength and resilience.”

The group opened 32 new stores in 2011 with 12 of these opened during December, with the majority of these being city centre locations, as per its latest acquisition programme focus.

In its report, the Co-op also stated that it plans to trial contactless payment in 180 stores between now and May.