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Today we’re giving our members an update on how their Co-op has done during the first six months of 2018. I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made – we’re staying competitive, keeping innovative and doing more than ever to support the communities in which we trade.
In January we launched our new ambition for a Stronger Co-op and Stronger Communities, and we’re already showing how we’ll do that. Two decisions in particular are proving how we’re keeping up-to-date in our thinking and responding to the needs of our members.
This morning we’ve announced how we plan to take our Co-op back into the area of healthcare and well-being as we respond to the complex needs of a growing older generation. We’ve bought Dimec a healthcare technology start-up, which has developed a digital platform which enables patients and their GPs to interact and better manage their prescription needs.
Dimec will give us the online structure from which to build a new range of health and well-being services for our members. This is a new venture that’s doesn’t require heavy investment and will allow to test and evolve our thinking.
And last week we made a bold new commitment to tackle funeral affordability. It’s a direct response to the findings of the biggest ever survey of attitudes towards death and dying which revealed that as many as 4 million people in the U.K. suffered financial hardship after a bereavement.
We’ve been able to make these announcements because of our growing commercial success which is driven by a commitment to create both immediate and long-term value to our millions of Co-op members across the country.
The big numbers
The numbers above summarise our good performance, particularly from our Food stores. I’m especially proud of the £35m we’ve returned to our members through our Co-op membership rewards. That’s money going back in their pockets and supporting the local projects they care about most.
In our Food business we’re looking for new ways to reach more people and keep ourselves competitive for the long-term.
Our successful acquisition of Nisa and our deal to supply Costcutter, have opened up exciting wholesale and franchise opportunities for us. Our Co-op products are now going into thousands of new stores and reaching the tables of hundreds of thousands of new homes. And our increased buying power means customers can benefit from improved prices and promotions.
In the first six months we opened 45 new food stores across the country. And our trial of ‘pop-up’ shops at music events throughout the summer helped us to reach 200,000 festival goers.
Funeralcare & Life Planning
In our Funeralcare & Life Planning business, sales increased due to a high death rate in the first quarter and increased probate work.
We also launched a new funeral service: ‘Cremation without Ceremony’ to offer further choice to our customers so they can decide how to celebrate the life of a loved one.
Since 2015 we’ve reduced prices on our most affordable funeral options by 15%. But now we’re going further. We’re reducing the cost of our Simple Funeral by £100, providing additional benefits to members and we’re going to guarantee to beat any like for like quote on funeral costs from any competitor.
In our Insurance business, income has fallen slightly reflecting fierce competition for motor insurance and of course the ‘Beast from the East’ in late February, which took its toll on all insurers.
All year though we’ve been picking up the pace. We’ve launched a new travel insurance policy, designed with member input, and packed full of innovation reflecting the real needs and concerns of holiday makers. We also launched a price-renewal guarantee on home policies for our members which proved highly successful.
Since we launched our new community fund in 2016 more than 12,000 local projects have benefitted. And we’ve now widened applications to non-charities and we’re giving a special emphasis to projects which encourage greater community co-operation.
Tackling modern slavery
Our pioneering campaign to help tackle modern slavery has gained us respect and recognition from experts and organisations working in this area, as well as the government. But more importantly, we’re encouraging other businesses to follow our commitment.
In the first half of the year more than a dozen corporate partners, including John Lewis, Dixons Carphone and The Body Shop, have joined our Bright Future programme giving survivors of modern slavery training and paid work.
During the first half of the year we passed an important milestone in our work to support those in our communities coping with loneliness and social isolation. 3,000 people have now been helped by the Community Connectors service funded with money our members and colleagues helped to raise. And we’ll be helping many more people in the months to come.
In the spring we announced our intention to grow our Co-operative Academy Trust from 12 to over 40 schools in the next few years. And in a UK first, through our new Connell Sixth Form College, we’re going to provide students with the opportunity to do a day a week as work experience during their studies and be paid the going rate for the role.
So we’ve had a very encouraging first six months. But we know there’s no room for complacency and plenty of space for further innovation. And that’s what our members will continue to see.
I want to thank our members for their continued loyalty and their belief in a business that does things differently because we know that good business can do good things.
Read more on the latest news at our Co-op;