Scotmid celebrates third year of growth

Turnover and profits both up at co-operative society

Scotmid Coatbridge
The society’s new Coatbridge store opened in the autumn of 2019.

SCOTMID has had plenty of reasons to celebrate recently, with the store marking its 160th anniversary while at the same time posting strong financial results.

For the third year in succession, the society has enjoyed turnover and profit growth. Figures for the year to 25 January revealed Scotmid enjoyed a trading profit of £5.6 million – up from £5.3m the previous year – with turnover up by £7m to reach £385m.

The strong results came despite what Scotmid chief executive John Brodie described as challenging trading conditions for grocery retailers in Scotland.

“We’re very pleased with the results and particularly to move them forward again in our 160th anniversary year.

“I think it’s easy to forget in the current crisis that in 2019 we faced a number of significant challenges at the start of the year, be that additional cost challenges, a poor economic market, and Brexit uncertainty.

“Having worked through that to improve the result of the society and the core business that make that up is a very pleasing result,” he said.

Scotmid’s strong results were largely driven by its food convenience business. While its Semichem business continues to operate in challenging market conditions – particularly in Northern Ireland – the society has been evolving its food retail offer.

Scotmid has put a major focus on expanding its food to go provisions – collecting this year’s Scottish Grocer Award for the category in the process – and has also been investing substantially in new and refurbished stores, as Brodie explained.

“We continued to invest in the business through refits, and we also acquired a new store [in Coatbridge] and opened that later in the year.

“We did 20 rebrands of the fascias, we tidied up stores and 14 stores had new energy efficient refrigeration installed, making them more environmentally friendly and lowering the operating cost. We also invested in new ovens and equipment for food to go,” he said.

Scotmid chief executive John Brodie.
Scotmid chief executive John Brodie.

Brodie said that Scotmid has a “growing confidence” in its food business, which gave the society the confidence to invest to open its new Coatbridge store last year. The Scotmid boss also suggested there may be more new units in the pipeline.

As a co-operative society, Scotmid has more obligations than delivering profits and 2019 was also a bumper year for charitable donations from the society.

To coincide with the society’s 160th anniversary, members of Scotmid’s democratically-elected regional committees distributed £160,000 in community grants to 1,154 community groups in the year – up £25,000 on 2018.

The society’s Community Connect initiative also hit the six-figure mark, donating £150,000 to good causes during the year.

Proceeds from Scotmid’s single-use carrier bag charge were also used to provide support to good causes, including support for Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Upstream Battle and Spring Clean 2019 campaign.

And at the end of August 2019, the society announced that members, staff and customers had raised £325,000 over the course of one year through Scotmid’s charity partnership with the SSPCA.

For the year ahead, Brodie said Scotmid has been working to tackle the challenges posed by coronavirus and has ramped up its use of the Snappy Shopper delivery app across more stores to accommodate customers.

The Scotmid boss was bullish about the society’s ability to weather the current storm.

“Last year I highlighted the cumulative burden of costs and the need to focus on innovation, effective investment and tight control of costs to continue to make progress.

“Once again the Society has delivered despite the Brexit saga and another challenging year for retailers generally.

“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.

“Overall it is our continuous improvement philosophy and our core purpose – to serve our communities and improve people’s everyday lives – that will continue to be our guide for the future,” he said.