Central England Co-operative has announced a 4.4% increase in like-for-like sales in its convenience stores for the first half of 2017.

The positive sales, which “outperformed the market”, reflected strong trading during Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter, according to chief executive Martyn Cheatle.

Over the period the society opened five new stores and refitted a further 25 sites as part of an on-going refurbishment programme, which also included the £500,000 refurbishment of three stores in Wooldale, West Yorkshire, following the transfer of engagement with Wooldale Co-operative Society in July.

The Society’s overall gross sales grew by 2.6% to £460.2m, “representing a pleasing performance in a highly competitive and increasingly uncertain trading environment,” said Cheatle.

“We are encouraged by our progress and have a clear strategy in place to respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead,” he added.

“We expect the trading environment to remain challenging and highly competitive for the foreseeable future, but are remain confident in our strategy and our co-operative point of difference which enables us to provide a relevant and attractive proposition to our members and customers.”