The Co-operative Group has reported a 3.4% increase in like-for-like sales at its food stores in 2017, as the organisation returned to profit.

Like-for-like sales at its convenience stores rose 4.3%, while overall store sales fell slightly from £7.06bn to £7.05bn, which it attributed to the sale of 298 smaller food stores to McColl’s Retail Group and a number of petrol filling stations.

The McColl’s deal enabled the group to focus investment in new stores “in more appropriate locations for the wider range we want to offer our members and customers”. In total the Co-op opened 105 new stores in 2017.

The Group’s pre-tax profit was £72m, following a loss of £132m in the previous year.

During 2017 the Co-op sold £164m of locally-sourced products across the UK. It is also “making good progress” to meet its target of 80% of its food packaging to be recyclable by 2020, ahead of a long-term target of 100%.

Chief executive Steve Murrells said: “Today’s results show how much progress we have made. All our businesses have performed well and we have increased profits and reduced debt, while continuing to invest for colleagues, members and customers.

“We know there are challenges ahead, but we are confident that with the support of our colleagues and our members, the strength of our brand and continued investment in our businesses we will achieve our goals.”