The head of The Co-operative Group‘s property division has said the UK grocer is “in talks” to acquire a number of smaller retailers as part of aggressive growth plans.

Stuart Hookins told just-food today (19 May) that The Co-op is “talking to a number of small retailers” about their acquisition as part of its plans to open more than 300 outlets over three years.

Hookins would not divulge the identity of the retailers but he said the number was “less than five”.

The Co-op, Hookins said, would not be interested in acquiring Iceland Foods but would consider its sites if or when the frozen-food retailer goes up for sale.

He said The Co-op was primarily focused on growing its convenience business, admitting that it has been “late” in the race for space in urban areas against rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

However, he was quick to add that the size of cities like London has meant that it is “very easy to find fill-in sites”.

Speaking about The Co-op’s flagship London site on the Strand, which opened in February, he said that despite competition in the area, all retailers were thriving. “You’ve got a Tesco and an M&S all within 20 metres” and they’re “all doing very well”, he said.

The Co-op has announced plans to rapidly expand its food property division, which has meant that it has doubled the size of its acquisitions and its retail analysis teams.