Late Christmas shopping boosts Co-op and Waitrose

Retailers Waitrose and the Co-op both cheered rises in Christmas sales yesterday amid growing evidence that British shoppers splashed out on food and drink for the festive period.

Waitrose boss Mark Price, left, praised the chains partners. Picture: Getty

Waitrose said it saw its most successful Christmas on record, including its busiest day ever.

Total branch sales for the 12 trading days to 31 December were up 6.5 per cent on last year. The figures, which exclude fuel sales, were 4.1 per cent higher on a like-for-like basis. Sales on Monday 23 December hit 
£51 million – the highest ever taken by the business in one day, with an average of 22,000 items going through checkouts every minute.

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Managing director Mark Price said: “Every year retailers say that Christmas is late, but with some justification in 2013 as customers phased their shopping in line with the mid-week fall of the main festivities. Partners across all our branches and our supply chain have done a brilliant job in coping with the late influx of shoppers.”

For the five-week period ending on Christmas Eve, Waitrose turned over £736m – up 3.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

The Co-op said underlying sales at its food business were up 1 per cent in the 13 weeks to 4 January, fuelled by strong trading at its smaller convenience food stores, which posted growth up 3.2 per cent.

Sales in the final three weeks of the quarter were particularly strong, with core convenience stores reporting like-for-like growth of 5.4 percent.

Group chief executive Euan Sutherland said the strong food sales reflected the loyalty of its customers despite the headlines about the problems at its banking division. The Co-op’s total sales for the final quarter of the year were flat at £1.7 billion, reflecting the disposal of some of its larger stores