Scotmid vows to adapt amid Covid-19 as profits jump

Scotmid Co-Op – whose offering includes food stores, funerals and Semichem – has flagged a mixed picture across its divisions amid Covid-19 – but stressed that it is resilient and will adapt after more than 160 years in business.

The group's store in Glenurquhart. Picture: Roddy Mackay.
The group's store in Glenurquhart. Picture: Roddy Mackay.

The comments came after the Edinburgh-based group posted trading profit of £5.6 million for the year ended 25 January, up from £5.3m in the previous 12 months. Trading turnover grew by £7m to £385m.

It said the positive result was driven by strong sales figures from its food convenience arm “when food was faced with significant cost increases but delivered consistently strong like-for-like sales underpinned by range improvements and innovation”. It added: “It is pleasing that in our 160th anniversary year we have produced these positive results given the very unfavourable market background.”

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Chief executive John Brodie told The Scotsman that the group saw a diverging picture for its food stores, with many seeing an uptick in trade from their local community. However, others in city centre locations, serving, say, workers at factories or offices, have seen custom reducing – amid the development of the firm’s food to go offering in recent years.

An example of the group's food to go offering at its store in Coatbridge. Picture: Phil Wilkinson.
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The group has also hired a few hundred staff and redeployed workers from head office and Semichem – whose stores have been closed due to lockdown – to help keep its food stores operational.

Brodie said: “Our first priority for our food estate and to keep people fed was to keep stores open and I’m pleased to say that we have managed to do that so far.”

Additionally, the group’s funerals business has seen a greater level of activity than usual in the current financial year. The firm said its staff in its food stores and funeral homes “are in the front line with a wide range of support from other colleagues to help keep food on our shelves and care for families at a most distressing time… Scotmid is doing everything we can to support and deliver government plans to help the UK get through this pandemic.

Position of strength

“In relative terms, we are in a position of strength compared to many other businesses because of the diversity of our operations but this also brings additional pressure and complexity.”

The group has also set up a fund to help its communities through the crisis, while it has postponed its annual general meeting until September.

Additionally, Scotmid said in its annual report that in Edinburgh it was redeveloping and refitting the Leven Street foodstore and building eight lettable flats above for the investment property portfolio. However, Brodie said only essential work is taking place at present.

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Brodie said: “Scotmid can therefore reflect on a positive 160th anniversary year but be mindful of the ever-growing cost challenge and the uncertainty around global events, particularly the Covid-19 pandemic. In the short-term we must manage the significant issues arising from the virus outbreak, however, I am sure everyone in the society will rise to the challenge.”

“We will do what we need to do to manage the business sensibly through the current challenge. We will continue to innovate, we’ll take learnings from the current times and adapt to the market going forward, whatever that may be.”

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