Co-op has announced it will repay furlough money received during the pandemic as the convenience store chain announced profit more than doubled last year.
The firm will hand £15.5m back to the government it said this morning as it revealed that profit after tax and discontinued items was £77m, up from £33m in 2019, on revenue of £11.5bn.
Sales increased from £10.9bn, driven by a 3.5 per cent jump in food sales to £7.8bn.
Co-op’s wholesale business sales ticked up from £1.4bn to £1.6bn, as a further 624 new independent stores were signed up by Nisa.
During the pandemic, 56 new Co-op stores were opened, a further 105 were refitted and 13 more were extended
It also extended its online offering, with 800 stores now providing at-home deliveries through its courier partners.
However, revenue in Co-op’s funeralcare division was flat year on year, despite an 11.4 per cent increase in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The government’s Covid restrictions meant only very small services and basic arrangements were possible.
The firm booked additional costs related to Covid of £84m, including new employees, increased worker absence, a staff bonus and the purchase of personal protective equipment.
Steve Murrells, Co-op chief executive, 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.”