FOUR of Britain's biggest societies have reported increased sales over the important festive period.
Co-op Group convenience store food sales for the five weeks to New Year's Eve were up by 2% on a like for like basis, while at United Co-operatives, food sales increased by 6.3% on 2004 – though the like for like figure is 2.5% when the impact of acquisitions and closures is taken into account.
There was also festive cheer at the two new ‘super co-ops' created last year.
Midcounties, the country's fourth biggest co-op, report a sales increase of approximately 1.7% on the same period the previous year – again on a like for like basis, while at Ipswich and Norwich Society, now part of East of England Co-op, like for like sales were up by 5.2%.
Co-op Group festive food sales were a record £ 7 million higher than the previous year, helped by an extra day's trading and a strong promotional package. There were strong results in beers, wines, spirits and confectionery.
The Group's Chief Executive of Food Retail Guy McCracken commented: "This is an encouraging improvement and reflects great credit on our teams in stores, logistics and head office who all worked extremely hard over this period."
At United, convenience stores performed particularly well, with a like-for-like increase in sales of 3.0%.
Tim Hurrell, General Manager – Food Group, said: "We have made excellent progress over the past 12 months and these figures are very pleasing, particularly in a challenging retail environment."
At Midcounties, Chief Executive Bob Burlton commented: "Our retail teams had to work very hard to deliver this result. The convenience stores' performance was healthy and again demonstrated our relevance and strength in local communities."
Some of East of England's outlets achieved sales 10% higher than 2004/5 and Chief Executive Designate Richard Samson says the society worked hard to provide the right range and availability in store.
No figures were available from Midlands Co-op, the UK's second biggest regional, as the News went to press.
Elsewhere, Leeds Co-op say that sales for the three weeks ending 31st December were up 5.9%, thanks to exceptional increases in its travel and opticians' businesses, which were both up 19%. Food store sales were up 3.4% overall and a massive 13.7% in the week up to Christmas Eve.
The big increase in optical sales was helped by the opening of a new branch in Leeds city centre recently.