The Co-op's revenue was hit because fewer Britons died last year

The Co-operative Group is attempting to “rescue, rebuild, renew” itself after a range of personnel scandals and financial issues dogged the company over the last two years.

The company, which is the UK’s largest mutual business and is owned by more than eight million members, has faced increased competition among the supermarkets and has sold off its farms and pharmacies over the last year to shore up cash.

However, the Co-op can’t seem to catch a break.

Co-op revealed in a trading statement for the 52 weeks ending January 3, 2015, that while it is frantically “rebuilding” the company and focusing on certain businesses, its revenue was hit because less Britons died last year.

The Co-op said that its funeralcare business saw sales fall almost 2%, by £7 million, which was “affected by a particularly low death rate.”

Other sales figures in the trading update show a fall too:

  • Group revenue of £9.4 billion in 2014, (2013: £9.7 billion)
  • Group underlying operating profit £172 million (2013: £177 million)
  • General insurance revenue fell to £371 million (2013: £476m)
  • Legal services’ revenues declined by a third to £23 million and made £5 million in losses for 2014.

“We made solid progress in 2014 as we successfully concluded the Rescue phase of our turnaround. The hard work of Rebuilding The Co-operative Group for the next generation, and restoring it to its rightful place at the heart of communities up and down the UK, is now underway,” said Richard Pennycook, Chief Executive of The Co-op Group, in a statement.

“We significantly reduced net debt, even after meeting our outstanding contributions to The Co-operative Bank. This followed the successful sales of our Farms and Pharmacy businesses and detailed work to ensure we have the right cost base in place. Our core businesses continued to deliver for customers, with their financial performances reflecting challenging trading conditions across all of our markets and the different stages they are each at in terms of Rebuild.”

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Co-op, less people may have died in 2014 to help sales but more people were buying its food.

The Co-op, which is the
UK’s fifth biggest food retailer with almost 2,800 local, convenience and medium-sized stores, revealed that like-for-like sales were up 0.4% overall.

“We acquired 82 new convenience stores and refurbished more than 700 stores; prices were lowered across 40 categories and the investment in own-brand product continued with over 170 awards for quality won during the year,” said the group.

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