Belfast Telegraph

'Co-op is back' after revealing surge in sales during Christmas period

The Co-operative Group declared it was "back" after cheering surging sales in its Christmas quarter, boosted by a push to sign up more customer members.

The supermarkets-to-funeral services mutual said its retail chain saw like -for-like food sales rise 3.4% in the final quarter of the year , boosted by a 4% increase at its core convenience stores.

It also cheered a 17% jump in direct motor insurance sales and a 73% hike in pre-paid funeral plan sales between September 21 and December 31.

The group now plans to bring forward its goal for one million new customer members by a year after signing up another 400,000 in the past four months alone.

It launched the new customer member drive in September, with aims to reach the target by the end of 2018, but said it will now look to hit its goal by the end of this year.

The group's robust end-of-year performance comes as the Co-op stages a turnaround after nearly collapsing in 2013 following the discovery of a £1.5 billion financial hole in its bank business.

Rufus Olins, chief membership officer at the Co-op, said: "The Co-op is back and our members and our communities are once again at the heart of all we do.

"In looking to grow our membership significantly in 2017, we are in effect looking to grow the Co-op economy, and the very positive impact it can have in communities throughout the UK."

It has teamed up with Bafta award-winning director Shane Meadows for a series of short films, based around its support for local causes.

A four-minute film by the This Is England director will be shown in cinemas across the UK from January 20.

The Co-op already has 4.1 million customer members, but it wants to attract another 500,000 new customers and 500,000 existing shoppers to the scheme.

It will be extended to Co-op insurance products later this year.

The Co-op has 3,750 outlets across the UK, with more than 70,000 staff.

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