UK convenience retailer The Co-operative Group has unveiled a GBP1.5bn (US$3bn) plan designed to create a single unified brand and double its profits.

Last summer, the Co-operative Group and Unite Co-Operatives merged to form the UK’s fifth largest food retailer and the nation’s largest mutual retailer.

Under the three-year programme, the Co-op is looking to create a single brand for its 4,300 retail outlets across the country.

“The Co-operative Group now has the critical mass necessary to deliver real change,” said chief executive Peter Marks.

While the Co-op said it hoped the investment will double profits, Marks maintained that the business would not sacrifice its social conscience.

“Customers, members and employees will continue to choose us for what we do with our profits as well as for how we make them,” he said.

The investment plan was unveiled as the Co-op said profits before one-off items and accounting changes rose 35% to GBP322.7m in the year to 12 January.

Pre-tax profits dropped to GBP195.5m from GBP359.1m, due to post-merger integration costs and issues at its financial services arm. The unit, which posted results earlier this month, said profits were dented by the impact of severe weather on insurance operations.

The Co-op said dividend payments to customer members rose from GBP22m to GBP45m.