The Co-op has reported a 3.5% rise in food sales to £7.8bn for the 52 weeks to 2 January 2021 and like-for-like sales up 6.9%.
The movement’s wholesale business achieved sales of £1.6bn compared to £1.4bn in 2019; with a further 624 new independent stores signed up by Nisa.
During the pandemic, 56 new Co-op stores were opened, a further 105 were refitted and 13 more were extended.
The online offer expanded significantly during the year, with 800 Co-op Food stores now providing food to homes via delivery partners.
Despite playing a critical role in supporting members and communities during the pandemic, the Co-op said the outlook was uncertain.
“The market remains highly competitive and, against the backdrop of a worsening consumer economy, the Co-op is planning for and dealing with continued lockdowns,” it said.
“We are working to respond to the changing needs of our customers, reflected in hyper-localism, further moves towards digitisation in all our businesses and providing value for money across the business,” it added.
Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-op, said: “In 2020 we lived through a perfect storm, with every part of our lives turned upside down – socially and economically, mentally and physically. Along the way we discovered much about our society, some of it brilliant and inspiring, and some of it quite ugly thanks to the unfairness and inequality Covid-19 has revealed and exacerbated.
“During the last few years, we’ve created a business that is truly focused on delivering clear value and benefits for our members, customers and their communities. All that work proved to be essential in giving us the ability to respond to the immediate and sustained demands which the pandemic brought with it. Our Vision, Co-operating for a Fairer World, was our guiding light throughout, and our response to Covid-19 demonstrated the power of co-operative enterprise and the relevance of co-operative values.”
Allan Leighton, independent non-executive chair of the Co-op, said: “Covid-19 presented us with a national emergency and a unique set of business challenges and community needs which showed that co-operation was capable of making a difference during an extraordinary time in the nation’s history. I am proud of how we rose to the challenge of the pandemic through our business operations and through our support to local communities. Creating Co-op value for our members has always been at the heart of our endeavours and I believe that reached new heights during 2020.
“On behalf of the Board, I want to acknowledge the incredible commitment shown by Co-op colleagues across all parts and at all levels of the business throughout 2020. It was an outstanding achievement, which epitomised our Co-op way of doing business, throughout a year that none of us will forget.”