Like-for-like sales for the three weeks to January 3rd grew by six per cent, taking like-for-like sales growth for the fourth quarter to 5.2 per cent, and for the last 52 weeks to 4.9 per cent. This is the twelfth successive quarter of like-for-like sales growth.
Average sales during 2008 were lifted up to around 13 per cent following the rebranding of 700 stores rebranded and refurbished during the year at a cost of £200m.
Over the three-week Christmas and New Year period, sales growth was strongest in beers, wines & spirits, soft drinks, seasonal lines and across all areas of fresh food.
The Group’s on-line electrical business, The Co-operative E-store (coopelectricalshop.co.uk), also enjoyed a buoyant Christmas. Like-for-like sales for the two weeks before Christmas were up 20 per cent, whilst Christmas week sales were up 32 per cent. Sales were excellent from all product groups, with TVs, food processors and coffee makers being the top sellers.
Peter Marks, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group, said: "These results represent a good trading performance from our food business in an increasingly competitive market place and a difficult economic climate. We continue to make very good progress in all our target areas with great products, local convenience, good value and responsible retailing at the heart of our customer offer.
“Leading into and throughout the seasonal trading period, we sharpened our prices and strengthened our customer offer providing even greater value locally, backed by our best ever national TV advertising and local marketing campaign. This came on top of continuing new product development and maintaining a leading position in ethical trading. For example, our Fairtrade offering included Champagne truffles, Christmas puddings and mince pies, all our fresh turkeys were free range and British, and all our own-brand Christmas cards and wrapping paper were accredited by the Forestry Stewardship Council.”
He added: “The unprecedented level of investment in store rebranding and refurbishment is paying back ahead of target as customers like the new look and feel of our modernised stores. In 2009, a further 700 stores will be rebranded and refitted.
“This robust performance is particularly pleasing coming ahead of our exciting acquisition of Somerfield, which we will complete in the first quarter of this year. We look forward to 2009 from a position of increasing strength."