Co-op Christmas sales strong

The Co-operative Group has announced a strong Christmas performance in its food stores.

Like-for-like sales for the three weeks to 3 January grew by 6%, taking like-for-like sales growth for the fourth quarter to 5.2%, and for the last 52 weeks to 4.9%. This is the twelfth successive quarter of like-for-like sales growth.

The retailer also announced that during 2008 it completed more than 700 store rebrand and refurbishment products at a cost of 200m, which went onto deliver average year-on-year sales uplifts of 13 per cent

Tim Hurrell, managing director - food retail, said: "These results represent a good trading performance from our food business in an increasingly competitive market place and a difficult economic climate. We continue to make very good progress in all our target areas with great products, local convenience, good value and responsible retailing at the heart of our customer offer.

"Leading into and throughout the seasonal trading period, we sharpened our prices and strengthened our customer offer providing even greater value locally, backed by our best ever national TV advertising and local marketing campaign. This came on top of continuing new product development and maintaining a leading position in ethical trading.

"For example, our Fairtrade offering included Champagne truffles, Christmas puddings and mince pies, all our fresh turkeys were free range and British, and all our own-brand Christmas cards and wrapping paper were accredited by the Forestry Stewardship Council."

He added: "The unprecedented level of investment in store rebranding and refurbishment is paying back ahead of target as customers like the new look and feel of our modernised stores. In 2009, a further 700 stores will be rebranded and refitted.

"This robust performance is particularly pleasing coming ahead of our exciting acquisition of Somerfield, which we will complete in the first quarter of this year. We look forward to 2009 from a position of increasing strength."