Co-operative Group

Why Co-op's funeral business is struggling

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

A casket
Getty Images

Revenue in Co-op's funerals business is down due to an unexpected fall in the death rate - but why are Brits dying less often?

Steve Murrells told Today: "The weather plays a part and the fluctuation in the death rate is ever thus. I suspect if we do have the Beast from the East returning early next year the death rate will start to rise again."

Also dragging on growth, the retailer has put its funeral pricing on hold in response to a more competitive market.

Mr Murrells explained: "I think it is well accepted that [the funerals industry] is going through a significant change, our focus now is about resetting our business model and making sure we’re match fit for a changing market."

Is Co-op ready for no deal?

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4


Co-op's chief executive Steve Murrells spoke to Today following the publication of the group's results.

Is the Co-op worried about claims published by the government today that the UK could see shortages of certain foods in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

Mr Murrells told Today: "As I have said before, we are prepared for the worst case, we’ve been working with suppliers for many months now."

He said he expects to see a bit of price of inflation some areas of fresh food, but the retailer has contingencies in place.

"We have taken on extra space. For challenges in fresh areas we’ve bulked up on some ambient grocery goods. That should put us in good stead."

Co-op funeral revenue falls


Half-year profits at the Co-operative Group fell to £25m from £44m a year earlier but Steve Murrells, chief executive,said the mutual had "enjoyed another good six months".

Some £29m was returned to members, the Manchester-based group said.

It said it had recorded 22 consecutive quarters of growth in like-for-like sales - which strip out store changes - in food with total sales up by 3% and like-for-like sales up by 1.7% in the first half.

In its funeral business revenue fell by 6% because of an unexpected 10% fall in the death rate and a "conscious decision to hold prices in a changing and competitive market".

New CFO for Co-op

Shirine Khoury-Haq

Shirine Khoury-Haq has been named chief financial officer of grocery and funeral homes business Co-operative Group.

She joins in the summer and replaces Ian Ellis, whose retirement was announced late last year.

She was previously chief operating officer of the Lloyd's of London insurance market.

Co-op boss: 'Food prices edging up as pound devalues'

Andrew Marr spoke to the Chief Executive of the Co-operative Group Steve Murrells

Co-op in "better situation than most" on Brexit supplies

Chief Exec Steve Murrells told BBC Breakfast about their Brexit preparations.
Pre-tax profits are up by over a quarter at the Co-op group in their latest full year results. The group has 1,000 funeral homes, 2,600 supermarkets and supplies another 5,000 stores. Food sales are up 4.4%. Chief Exec Steve Murrells told BBC Breakfast's Ben Thompson that they were "in a better position than most" on preparations for any no-deal Brexit in terms of their supply chain.

Co-op boss: Food has been a stand-out

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Co-op food worker

Co-op chief executive Steve Murrells has been talking to Radio Four's Today programme about the financial results.

"Food has been a real stand-out for us," he says. "We are focused on being the best convenience retailer we can be.

"People are coming our way, because we are starting to resonate with the things we care about."

He said as an example the firm was making an investment from its £50m pension fund into social housing.

Co-op revenues and profits rise

Co-op bag
Co-Op Group

Total revenues at the Co-op grew by 14% to £10.2bn during 2018, driven by its acquisition of Nisa and a strong performance from food.

Like-for-like revenues continued to grow in food, up 4.4%, and the Co-op has now seen five consecutive years of like-for-like revenue growth.

Chief executive Steve Murrells said: "The acquisition and integration of the Nisa wholesale business has been a game changer in expanding our food footprint."

Profit before tax from continuing operations was up 27% to £93m.