Co-op revenue tops £11bn as profit rises to £92m

Manchester-based Co-op Group said on Thursday its revenue for the year to January 2 rose 5.5% to £11.5 billion and underlying profit before tax rose 37.3% to £92 million.

Food sales at the mutually-owned group rose 3.5% to £7.8 billion.

The group said it faced additional Covid costs during the year of £84 million.

The mutual said it arranged 10,000 more funerals than it did 2019 — an increase of 11.4% “sadly reflecting the excess deaths caused by Covid-19.”

Co-op Group is owned by four million UK consumers. It operates 2,600 food stores, over 800 funeral homes and provides products to 5,100 other stores including those run by independent co-operative societies and through its wholesale business Nisa Retail.

Co-op Group, which employs 63,000 people, said it will repay £15.5 million of furlough money to the UK government but will not return £66 million in business rates relief.

Explaining that decision, Co-op Group chair Allan Leighton said: “The Co-op has played a vital and unique role in feeding and caring for the nation through the Covid-19 pandemic and will continue to do so as the vaccine programme is further rolled out.

“We were grateful for the Government support that allowed us to manage our businesses through the pandemic, particularly our Funeralcare business, which has been working with bereaved families in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, helping them mark the passing of loved ones at a time of national grief.

“The pandemic turned our plans upside down and, while our revenues went up marginally, our costs rose disproportionately.

“We welcomed money from the Government on the basis that it was not a loan and we would not need to pay it back – and we took business decisions accordingly.

“I want to thank all of our Co-op colleagues who have made such a difference, day in, day out, over the past year and acknowledge the debt we all owe to them.”

Co-op Group CEO Steve Murrells said: “In 2020 we lived through a perfect storm, with every part of our lives turned upside down – socially and economically, mentally and physically.

“Along the way we discovered much about our society, some of it brilliant and inspiring, and some of it quite ugly thanks to the unfairness and inequality Covid-19 has revealed and exacerbated.

“During the last few years, we’ve created a business that is truly focused on delivering clear value and benefits for our members, customers and their communities.

“All that work proved to be essential in giving us the ability to respond to the immediate and sustained demands which the pandemic brought with it.

“Our Vision, Co-operating for a Fairer World, was our guiding light throughout, and our response to Covid-19 demonstrated the power of co-operative enterprise and the relevance of co-operative values.”