Festive sales boost societies

BRITAIN’S three biggest independent societies have reported encouraging trading results over the festive season with food sales up by over three per cent in each case.

Martyn Cheatle, Chief Executive of Midlands Co-operative, the UK’s largest independent, told the News: “Despite the severe weather and thanks to the dedication and hard work of our colleagues, like-for-like food sales were 3.1 per cent ahead of last year. 

“Sales in convenience stores were up 6.4 per cent and trading in our supermarkets were up 3.1 per cent.”

Sales of fresh food, confectionery and seasonal products were very strong with over half a million mince pies, 15, 000 Christmas puddings and 18,000 turkeys sold in the society’s stores.

Added Mr Cheatle: “Christmas week sales in non-food were also very successful and beat our expectations despite the disruption caused by the snow and ice. The best selling non-food lines were televisions and small electrical domestic appliances.”

Midcounties, the country’s second biggest independent, also enjoyed a bumper festive period with like-for-like food sales in the three-week Christmas period ending on New Year’s Day up 3.58 per cent and overall sales increasing by 4.18 per cent.

Chief Executive Ben Reid commented: “We are delighted by this strong performance in our food business. Trading conditions remain tough, but these figures demonstrate that our continued improvement in quality products and service, along with our ongoing commitment to our communities, is striking a chord with the public.

“There were many difficulties to overcome, including many stores not receiving deliveries because of the wintry weather, so to achieve this level of sales growth was tremendous.”

Meanwhile Roger Grosvenor, Group General Manager – Trading for East of England Co-op,  said the society had seen a 3.6 per cent increase in festive food sales following on from substantial rises in recent years.

He said: “The extremely bad weather over the past two winters has helped our smaller community stores which provided a lifeline for our communities, with customers preferring to shop locally rather than risk travelling on icy roads.”

Sales in Lincolnshire Co-operative’s 71 food stores were up a massive five per cent in the six-week period to January 1st and Chief Executive Ursula Lidbetter said the society’s pharmacies and travel outlets had also been particularly busy.

The Peterborough-based Anglia Society reported a “modest growth” in food sales as compared to the previous festive season and said the increase had been helped by the move to electronic dividend payments.

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