Today The Co-op unveiled some pretty dismal like-for-like numbers for food sales, down 2.5% on last year.
That wasn’t a huge surprise coming off the back of a disappointing Christmas. Then, the mutual blamed everything from its broad geographic footprint, which you’d think should have helped, to the wrong kind of snow (or something). This time the culprit was the “severe disruption” of integrating Somerfield. And there’s no doubt it was a monumental task.
Instead, the mutual preferred to talk about the bumper increase in profits across the group – although that wasn’t much of a surprise either, considering the two giant acquisitions it made (Britannia Building Society being the other). And Peter Marks was also claiming another triumph – for the co-operative model itself.
“This time last year I welcomed the interest being shown by all the mainstream political parties in our ownership model, and the potential they saw in co-operatives to drive improvements in the delivery of public services,” he said today.
“Since then, there has been a great deal of talk but little way of action. What is now needed, to take ‘Big Society’ thinking from mere rhetoric to something more tangible, is a one-stop shop where those who want to set up a co-operative can meet the experts and actually makes things happen. This is something we plan to launch this year.”
For now, details are scarce – meaning all we have to go on for now is Marks’ own slightly Cameroonian oratory.
If the advertising campaign inviting shoppers to ‘Join the revolution’ is anything to go by, investment won’t be lacking. But then with Marks also admitting that “the downturn is biting deeper than we had expected”, it remains to be seen how far circumstances, and consumers, will want to co-operate.
More slices of Daily Bread