Co-op had "never been so relevant", Marks claimed in March

Co-op had "never been so relevant", Marks claimed in March

The chairman of The Co-operative Group has publicly backed the UK retailer's chief executive amid reports of falling sales at Somerfield, the business it acquired in 2008.

Len Wardle today (4 May) admitted that sales at the Somerfield stores attained by the Co-op were "lower" but said the integration of the outlets into the business was "on track".

"The board of the Co-operative Group is united in its commitment to the continuing success of the business under Peter Marks' leadership - both commercially and in delivering its Co-operative values," Wardle said.

"The process of integrating Somerfield into the Co-operative family is on track. Sales are lower, not least because we’ve cut prices for shoppers."

Wardle added: "The Co-operative Brand has never been stronger and more relevant than it is today, as was underlined by the record group results announced [in March].  We are getting on with running the business for our millions of members and customers."

Two months ago, the Co-op posted a 5.5% rise in annual like-for-like food sales as Marks hailed "an historic year" for the business.

According to figures reported by The Daily Mail yesterday, sales at Somerfield stores have fallen 12.2% over the last year.

The Co-op insisted it had "always said that integrating two big businesses ... would be a complex matter" and added: "We remain on track and will provide an update when we release our interim results towards the end of August."