UK retailer groups the Co-Operative Group and United Co-operatives have entered into discussions for a merger deal between the two societies.

A Co-op Group spokesperson told just-food that talks are expected to continue for a number of months, and that no monetary transaction would be involved.

Should the board meetings be successful, it will be up to the members of both societies whether to finally approve the deal.

In a joint statement, representatives from both boards said they have agreed to discuss the possibility of a merger between their two societies.

"Talks have commenced and a further statement from the two boards will be issued when they conclude," they said.

Both United and the Co-op Group focus on convenience store-scale food operations in the UK.

United operates principally across the Midlands and Northern England, as the largest regional co-operative society in the UK. It has a turnover of GBP2.5bn (US$4.9bn), and employs 16,500 staff through its food, travel, motor, health care and funerals groups.

The Co-Op Group's operations, including food, pharmacy, funerals, travel care, shoes, farm care and property, make it the larger of the two groups with a turnover of GBP8bn.

In terms of food retailing, the Co-Op Group has 1700 branches, while United has 621 outlets.