By Steve Murrells, Co-op CEO
Today we’re publishing our interim report showing our progress in the first half of the year. There’s a full infographic available too.
Our turnover was £5.4 billion, an increase of 12% from half-year 2018, reflecting the full contribution of our Nisa business and continued strong Food performance. We’ve now had 22 consecutive quarters of like-for-like sales growth in Food, total sales were up by 3% and like-for-like sales up by 1.7%, an even more impressive performance when you consider that last year we had the FIFA World cup and a very long hot summer.
Overall, profit before tax was £25 million, but on a like-for-like basis, it was £30 million, down £14 million from 2018. This mainly reflects a weaker performance in our Funeralcare business.
Our Funeralcare business has had a challenging year with a fall in sales and profit. We’ve also seen unprecedented change in the market. So we’re re-setting and adapting our business for future success. Funeral sales were also impacted by an unexpected 10% fall in the death rate. We know there’s more to do and are meeting these challenges head-on. We plan to reposition and grow the business by focusing on exceptional care, improved value, more innovation, and greater choice for families, making it easier for them to get the support they need and expect from our Co-op.
*Our headline business performance figures are difficult to compare with last year because of a significant change to financial reporting regulations. So in the financial pages of the report we’ve included additional like-for-like numbers to show how the figures would look if the reporting changes hadn’t come into force. In broad terms though, our results for the first half are in line with our plans.
It’s what we do
As you know, it’s a strong Co-op that enables us to create stronger, more connected communities. There are lots of examples of how we’ve achieved this through the first half of this year, in particular through our Endangered Spaces campaign where we’re aiming to protect 2,000 community spaces by the end of 2022.
Meanwhile, we’ve strengthened our Safer Colleagues and Safer Communities campaign ensuring that the voices of over 600 colleagues who’ve experienced violent crime while doing their job were heard by the Home Office. Earlier this week our Food CEO, Jo Whitfield, launched new academic research in Parliament, which explored the impact of verbal and physical abuse against shop workers and the underlying reasons why offenders carry out violent acts. Through new partnerships with community based charities, Steel Warriors and the Damilola Taylor Trust, we’re also helping to tackle the root causes of violent crime.
We also know that climate change, and the use of plastics in particular, continues to be a concern for our members. By 2020 we’ll have eliminated the most difficult to recycle plastic packaging and all single-use plastic in our own-brand packaging will be gone by 2023. And we’ve committed to reducing all our direct Green House Gas emissions by a further 50% by 2025 in line with United Nation’s scientific guidance.
We know we need to shout much louder and prouder about the great things we’re doing. Through our national advertising this year we’ve been explaining how choosing Co-op means choosing to do good in your community and around the world. It’s been great to see #ItsWhatWeDo all over Twitter!
Like all big businesses, we’ve continued with our Brexit planning and we know we need to be ready for all eventualities. If a negotiated withdrawal from the EU doesn’t take place at the end of October and we leave the EU without a deal, we expect some disruption to our supply chain, at least in the short term.
A top priority for us right now is making sure our colleagues from the EU feel welcome at what must be an unsettling time for them. We’re also offering practical help to colleagues applying for permission to remain living and working here.
As we pass the half-way mark of the year, we don’t underestimate the challenges we face in the second half, most notably Brexit and the turnaround of our funerals business. Despite this, we can be pleased with our progress.
I’m hugely thankful for your hard work and dedication to our Co-op and I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on what I know will be a busy and productive next few months.