Co-op Group prepares in case of no deal Brexit

Chief executive Steve Murrells has also said that a more co-operative economy might have undercut the tensions behind the Brexit vote

In the wake of the release of the Yellowhammer document, warning of the possible disruptions to supplies in the event of a no deal Brexit, the Co-op Group has signalled its preparations.

Chief executive Steve Murrells told Sky News: “We’re a convenience business so we’ll be stockpiling things like toilet rolls, things like water, long-life grocery products but only to a certain limit. We’re confident that our supply chains, certainly in the grocery and long-life products, will be sufficient to get through this period of time if we crash out with no deal.”

Fresh supply lines are different but he said: “Things like meat, all of our meat is supplied from the UK so that sector will be fully available – not affected whatsoever”.

But he warned “there will likely be some gaps” on the shelves by November and said the Group was trying to mitigate against these. “Before gaps arise we will shrink our ranges – for example, if we have five pack sizes of apples, we’d go to one pack size for apples in order to get some form of availability on the shelf.

“I think we’re well placed. I’m hopeful we’re not going to crash out but if we are, we’re well planned for it.”

In another press call, made to discuss the Group’s half-year results, Mr Murrells said his team had spent more than a year working with suppliers to prepare for the worst case scenario, securing extra storage space based on assumptions of where availability would be hit hardest.

In a separate interview, with the Yorkshire Post, Mr Murrells said the Brexit vote might have been avoided if the UK had a more inclusive, co-operative economy.

He pointed to a disconnect between voters, especially in the regions, in politicians in Westminster, and people had taken the referendum as chance to voice their discontent.

“At the time it was clear that the fabric of our society and the connectivity between all regions was starting to get stressed. What was affecting people locally in the north wasn’t being recognised by Whitehall and government.” he said.

“As things have moved on over these last three years, those problems that were starting three years ago have now got considerably worse. One of the solutions is having more social enterprises and more co-ops to run business in a different way. We’re not the sole solution but we’re one of the things that can help make a difference.”

He added: “At a time when there is real division, the country needs more co-ops and it needs more collaboration. It needs organisations that are encouraged to and able to put more back in than they take out.”

Mr Murrells, in Yorkshire to visit causes that the Group’s Local Community Fund has supported, said regional devolution could encourage the co-operative spirit. “I do think that working more collaboratively on a local basis in each region with the people on the ground and linking into the metro mayors is how towns, villages and cities will develop,” he said.