A FOOD retailer is opening a new North-East store that will create up to 20 jobs, bosses have told The Northern Echo.

The Co-op says its new shop will open in Middleton St George, near Darlington, in the summer.

The move is part of a wider £160m expansion, which the Co-op says will include 100 further food shops nationwide and around 1,600 jobs.

A spokeswoman told the Echo its County Durham venture will benefit from “a six figure investment and create in the region of 15 to 20 jobs.”

According to its proposals, the retailer, which will also give “major makeovers” to a further 150 outlets, will complement its Middleton St George endeavour with new stores in York, Harrogate and Morpeth, Northumberland.

More than 20 are expected to open in London, with up to 18 in Scotland and ten in Wales also on officials’ list.

Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food, said: “Our food business is going from strength-tostrength in what is a challenging retail market, and we are positively responding to the changes occurring.

“We have the ambition for our stores to be at the heart of local life, bringing communities together and offering our members and customers great quality products when and where they need them.”

The news follows the announcement of an agreement for the Co-op to become the exclusive wholesale supplier to the 2,200 Costcutter Group stores, and a deal to buy Nisa Retail, which is conditional on Competition and Markets Authority approval.

Stuart Hookins, director of portfolio and development, added: “Acquisitions and the re-fit programme are a fundamental part of our food strategy.

“Moving forward with a clear purpose and momentum, our expansion plans for 2018 will mean the Co-op is on track to have opened at least 100 new stores in each of three consecutive years.

“We are always looking for new locations to get closer to where members and customers live and work to meet their needs.”