Strong performance for consumer co-operatives over Christmas

Festive sales for the UK’s two largest co-operatives have shown strong growth.

Festive sales for the UK’s two largest co-operatives have shown strong growth.

The Co-operative Group reported that like-for-like sales in the three weeks to 4th January grew by 3.5% (2013: 2.2%), with the core convenience stores reporting growth of 5.4%.

Meanwhile, the John Lewis Partnership reported that during the five weeks to 28th December, total sales were £734m, 7.2% up compared with last year, 6.9% on a like-for-like basis.

Across the grocery industry, Sainsbury reported its "best Christmas ever" with total sales for third quarter up 2.5%, while Tesco reported a 2.4% drop in like-for-like sales.

The Co-operative Group further added that in the 13 weeks to 4th January, like-for-like sales grew by 1% on the corresponding period last year (2013: 0.3%). Over the same period food stores delivered like-for-like sales climb of 3.2%.

But, despite the growth, food sales over the 13 weeks were flat at £1,697.9m (£1,695.4m), which reflected the disposal of larger non-core stores during the period, according to the Group. In Pharmacy, sales were up 1% over the same period, while the online electrical business saw sales increase by 28.2% in the period.

John Lewis said its online sales for the five weeks were 22.6% up on the previous year, while its electricals and home technology sales were 10.7% up on last year.

Waitrose, a part of John Lewis, also said it had seen its most successful Christmas on record with total branch sales (excluding fuel) for the 12 trading days ending 31st December up 6.5% on last year and 4.1% on a like-for-like basis.

For the five week period ending on Christmas Eve, total sales (excluding fuel) were £736m – up 5.4% on the equivalent period last year and 3.1% on a like for like basis.

The Co-operative Group’s chief executive of retail, Steve Murrells, said: “These results are a reflection of all our efforts to improve the customer offer and show the value of our strategic focus on convenience retailing. We are now delivering better products, at better prices, in better shops.

"With household budgets under pressure, customers want affordable, quality products delivered locally by colleagues who are really engaged and that is what we are delivering. We still have much to do, but these trading figures give us real encouragement.

“Looking ahead, we believe that our core convenience stores should continue their strong performance. Through the rest of the year we will continue to further develop our food strategy and customer offer around the core convenience estate, where we have a leading market presence and position.”

Group Chief Executive Euan Sutherland added that the figures from the food business were “very encouraging” especially while “the Co-operative Bank was in the headlines”.

As part of the wider strategic review currently underway, the Group added that it is reviewing its approach to financial reporting to ensure it is communicating its performance in the most appropriate ways to all stakeholders. The conclusion of this work will be shared later in the year.

Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis, added: "This Christmas has seen trade take a different shape to previous years, with an early peak driven by Black Friday and a huge surge in the final 10 days. Many of the big online shopping days and weeks occurred earlier in the period but shops were packed in the last-minute rush on 'manic Monday' (23rd December) when we saw our city centre shops record peak days.”

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