Before Christmas, we knew that we were in a really good place to have a great seasonal trading period. We’d learnt a lot from 2015 and had strong plans in place to deliver a fantastic Co-op Christmas. The focus on convenience and an ever stronger local supermarket offer resulted in a strong trading period. Our strategy of serving up ‘good food which does good’ and our ever improving store estate is attracting shoppers.
The launch of membership earlier in the year gave our members and customers a really compelling reason to choose us and all the hard work on improving our availability and our product range was already paying off.
Whilst lots of people headed to the big supermarkets for their Christmas shop, we still had millions of customers coming to our stores, with our busiest trading day falling Christmas Eve. Overall like for like sales were up 3.5% in the three weeks* of Christmas – that’s outstanding!
Our biggest selling line was our own brand Prosecco and we had great sales success across produce as a whole, with our availability on core lines being better than ever in the run up to the big day. In fact in Christmas week our availability across the store was much better than last year with 300,000 fewer gaps
Friday 23 December was the biggest day for our members redeeming the money they’d saved up through the membership 5% against their shopping, but there’s still an amazing £10m sitting in their digital wallets.
Our logistics teams did a great job, with more Christmas deliveries than ever arriving on time, making sure our customers could get what they needed when they needed it. And our colleagues in store were fabulous in dealing with the extra volume and customers – a true example of everyone succeeding together.
Our newly re-launched Irresistible range performed really well, with our Irresistible Buttercrust Mince Pies and Irresistible Chocolate & Amaretto Yule Log proving to be particular hits with our customers. The frozen meal deal was also a big success, offering great value for money and with better availability than in 2015.
We were able to give something back to communities this year – with membership 1% community funds being topped up every time our members bought own brand products. The total overall 1% contribution now stands at £2.9m. Over Christmas and New Year our mince pies (which featured in our Christmas ad campaign) raised nearly £5,500 and our Prosecco contributed nearly £13,000 to that total. In addition, we’ve topped up our local community fund by £3.5m through the carrier bag levy.
Our ad campaign was well received with viewers appreciating the community spirit it portrayed and the idea of ‘good food that does so much more’. In a world full of schmaltzy CGI competitor adverts it stood out as authentic and a true example of the Co-op difference.
Out and about at Christmas
In the run up to Christmas, I spent two weeks visiting stores the length and breadth of the country (from the Outer Hebrides to Devon), and I was proud to see how well set up our stores were, and how energised our colleagues were around giving our customers a great Christmas shopping experience.
Colleagues across the country were enthusiastic about giving each and every customer and member a great Co-op Christmas
Steven Cooper the store manager in Macaulay Road introduced me to his team in store and I met his community committee who on the day were running a home baking stall with all funds going to our charity partner the Red Cross. The colleagues in stores were so warm, positive and excited about our Co-op journey – I was really impressed to learn that the store had smashed its charity fundraising target for the year, over £20,000 from one store is amazing.
In Barrowash store I met Anthony, a CTM who’s newly joined the team, and was getting into the Christmas spirit. The store had gone the extra mile in creating great impact with their displays and Shiphay store created their very own Santa’s Grotto!
Goodwill Stockings and Reverse Advent
We also built on the success of our #DoorstepChallenge from last year with our Goodwill stockings, with over 8,500 being delivered to well deserving members of the community. Colleagues told us how much they loved the idea and how excited they were at getting involved. In addition customers and colleagues got involved in #ReverseAdvent giving boxes of treats to deserving people and groups.
Whilst in Stornoway, I visited Mr Macleod a long standing customer and member to deliver his Goodwill Stocking; the feedback that I got from him was so positive about his Co-op; how we serve the Island and about all of the positive things that we do in the community, a real live example of what being Co-op is all about.
Across the country, we surprised and delighted some of our most deserving community members with our Goodwill Stockings and Reverse Advent boxes.
I also want to thank the 1,000 Support Centre colleagues who went into our shops to Lend a Hand. Christmas is clearly an extremely busy time in our stores and I know the extra pairs of hands made a real difference to our store teams.
Thank you to every one of you in the Food business who worked so hard to deliver such a great Co-op Christmas. It was a real team effort and truly demonstrated our Ways of Being Co-op in action.
Happy New Year!
Chief Executive of Co-op Food
*Weeks 50-52 (11th-31st Dec)