Festive cheer for the Group

The Co-operative Group has announced strong Christmas and New Year trading figures in its food stores.

Like-for-like sales (including VAT, but excluding fuel) increased by five per cent in the three-week festive trading period to January 2nd, and by 4.8 per cent in the 12 weeks to January 2nd.

This is the Group’s 16th consecutive quarter of like-for-like sales growth. In the same 12 weeks, total year-on-year sales (including VAT, excluding fuel) grew by 66 per cent, boosted by the acquisition of Somerfield.

Group Chief Executive Peter Marks commented: “These results represent another strong trading performance from our food business in an increasingly competitive market and a difficult economic climate.

“Against the backdrop of financial pressures on household budgets, our focus on great deals locally and the fact that our stores are located within communities, helped boost sales.”

Mr Marks said pre-Christmas price cuts and a promotional package worth over £200 million in savings to customers, including a first-ever triple dividend, had boosted sales. He explained: “Sales were up in both convenience and larger stores.

“We attracted more customers and existing customers increased their spend with us. Our successful brand launch earlier in the year, together with a significantly up-weighted seasonal advertising campaign, had a positive impact, reinforcing both our ethical credentials and our return as a major force in UK retailing.”

The Group reported particularly strong performances in meat and poultry, chilled foods, beers, wines and spirits and confectionery and also maintained its leading position on ethical trading.

“For the first time, all Co-operative fresh and frozen turkeys were higher welfare Elmwood standard or above, yet sales saw a 21 per cent uplift,” said Mr Marks. “Fairtrade products also showed further excellent sales increases, building on their success the previous year.”

The Group’s online electrical business (www.coopelectricalshop.co.uk) also enjoyed a successful festive trading period with sales over the three weeks to January 2nd up by 18 per cent year on year.

Combined sales for five key holiday days including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day were up 46 per cent on 2008, reflecting the growing popularity of internet shopping. Big sellers included large screen LCD televisions and coffee machines.

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