Co-op Castlewood Lorries

Like-for-like food sales up 4.4% in the first six months of the year

The Co-op’s food sales have been boosted by its £50m investment into more competitive prices, which “resonated” with customers, retail CEO Jo Whitfield said today.

The Co-op Group this morning announced a 10% rise in first-half sales to £5bn driven by strong like-for-like food sales growth and its acquisition of Nisa.

Food retail like-for-like sales were up 4.4% in the first six months of the year, meaning it has now posted 18 consecutive quarters of like-for-like sales growth.

Total food sales were up 3% to £3.6bn, reflecting strong sales growth driven by a market leading offer for the World Cup with underlying food operating profit up 23% at £80m.

In a media call on the results, Whitfield attributed the Co-op’s strong performance in food to its £50m investment to improve prices across hundreds of everyday products in the period.

The uplift was also testament to its “powerful investment into our own-label ranges”, she claimed.

Read our full coverage of The Co-op results

Whitfield also said the retailer planned a major expansion into the health and wellbeing space, as it seeks to “nudge” consumers to eat more healthily.

Healthy push

It comes as the group today announced the acquisition of healthcare technology startup Dimec, which enables patients and their GPs to interact and better manage their prescription needs, via a newly established Co-op Ventures arm.

Whilst the Dimec deal was aimed at the prescription side of heath, there were plans for “range extensions and additional” opportunities in the health area, Whitfield revealed.

“We have already made investments in areas such as vegan food. Free-from is a real strength but we will be looking at expanding further,” she said.

CEO Steve Murrells added: “One of the things we want to do is nudge people towards a healthier lifestyle.

“We haven’t gone into this because of what the government might do in its obesity plans. We think health is a major issue and that we can make a big difference.”

Read our full coverage of The Co-op results

Meanwhile Murrells said today the Co-op’s acquisition of Nisa had “opened up exciting wholesale and franchise opportunities”.

He added: “We expect that to grow in the months ahead.”

Core convenience like-for-like sales were up by 5.1% in the period, while the Co-op reported wholesale sales of £269m following the Nisa acquisition.