Group’s new jobs pledge

THE Co-operative Group has announced plans to create 1,000 customer-facing jobs in 2011 and a total of over 7,000 altogether over the next three years as part of...

The Group will also offer 2,000 places over the same period in the Co-operative Apprenticeship Academy, an initiative aimed at providing renewed investment in young people.

The plans were revealed by Deputy Chief Executive Martyn Wates at a Downing Street summit on job creation hosted by the Prime Minister and attended by representatives of 18 other leading UK employers.

The event also provided the opportunity for the Group to highlight the difficulties faced in running stores in areas of high crime, which can often be a factor in store closures and job losses in the areas that needed them most.

Said Mr Wates: “As well as ensuring best value through the efficient provision of public services, we need equally to focus on the importance of maintaining vibrant communities, which are safe and secure for people to work, live and invest in.

“Our invitation to this high-profile event underlines the Government’s recognition of the Group as a major commercial force and employer. The summit gave us the chance to outline the scale of our ambition and help contribute to the creation of valued jobs within society.”

Meanwhile the Group has blamed the impact of the severe winter weather and the ongoing issue of the Somerfield conversion programme after reporting a like-for-like fall in Trading Group sales of 0.6 per cent for the 13 weeks to January 1st, with overall food sales down 3.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

However in the crucial convenience store battleground, food sales were up two per cent in the quarter and in the Group’s non-food businesses, combined sales rose by 12.1 per cent thanks to strong performances in online electrical, motor and travel operations.

The figures exclude financial services, acquisitions, disposals and fuel, but includes VAT, and, overall, the Group says it was a solid performace in view of the prevailing circumstances which saw almost 200 former Somerfield stores closed for an average of seven days to allow for refits and delivery and footfall problems caused by the extreme weather.

Chief Executive Peter Marks commented: “We have delivered a solid trading performance across our retail businesses in a difficult environment. The exceptionally cold weather created logistical issues for our food stores, particularly given the sheer scale and geographic spread of our estate. 

“Our people worked exceptionally hard to ensure that we provided a great service to all our customers and the strong performance of our core convenience estate is a testament to all their efforts.”

Added Mr Marks: “The planned acceleration of the Somerfield conversion programme was an added issue, but this continues at pace and we remain on track to complete the process by the spring.

“The performance of our non-food businesses was very strong overall and, together with the excellent progress made by our financial services business, we are confident 2010 will be another record year for the Group.”

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