Strong results in a challenging year

Scotmid boss Brodie says staff doing a ‘fantastic job’ during pandemic

Scotmid chief executive John Brodie

SCOTMID has posted strong financial results in what has been a challenging year for the co-operative society.

The society recorded a trading profit of £6.4 million for the 53 weeks ending 30 January 2021, with turnover increasing by £24m to £409m.

Scotmid chief executive John Brodie, said it has been a “solid year financially” for the society, but added that there has been “an awful lot done to actually produce that result.”

“The people in the business have done a fantastic job and really stepped up in challenging times,” he said.

Scotmid’s latest financial results cover a period in which retailers were forced to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, and Brodie said that the first peak of the pandemic was a particularly challenging time.

Brodie highlighted investment in PPE, stickers, screens and hand sanitiser, as well as “greatly increased” costs from sick leave as key challenges  faced by the society last year.

Scotmid Barnton, Edinburgh, was one of the stores to receive a refit

Scotmid was able to mitigate some of the supply chain stresses seen across the retail sector during the first Covid-19 lockdown, Brodie said, by drawing on resources from its Semichem business, which allowed Scotmid to maintain strong availability throughout.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Scotmid has continued to invest in developing its retail offer, and was able to resume its store refurbishment programme last year, as Brodie explained.

“We stopped development work during the first lockdown, because the priority was keeping stores open for our communities. Then when things eased we did get back to it – although at a slower pace because it’s more difficult to do. It’s not stopped us doing developments and work at Leven Street and Bo’ness was finished during the period. We’ve done other refits and refurbishment work as well,” he said.

The society’s food business has proven resilient throughout the pandemic, with community-based convenience stores – which make up the bulk of Scotmid’s food business – recording an increase in trade.

However, a pandemic lift was not uniform across Scotmid’s food retail business according to Brodie, who said city centre stores and those in tourist locations had seen a reduction in trade.

The society’s Semichem business also took a hit from reduced footfall and Scotmid has recently announced plans to close up to 22 of the brand’s stores across Scotland and Northern Ireland.

FTG forms a major part of the offer at Scotmid’s revamped Leven Street store

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, Brodie said Scotmid stepped up its support for local communities over the period.

“We actually increased our charitable giving, recognising the challenges that many were facing, and created a specific Covid fund.

“Whether it’s FareShare, The Retail Trust, or Project Wingman that we supported, Social Bite for the homeless, NHS charities.

“We commenced a two-year funding agreement with Pancreatic Cancer UK to fund research. On top of that we kept our community connect initiative going and customers, members and staff raised £300,000 for Chest Heart and Stroke – absolutely demonstrating our core purpose and why we were established 160 years ago.

“Lots of people say it, but there’s real demonstration that we serve our communities and improve people’s everyday lives.”

Looking to the future, Brodie said Scotmid’s approach will remain the same.

“We’ll very much do our continuous improvement philosophy, keep moving every area ahead and also develop new areas.

“I think the challenge we’ve got is things are looking more positive than they were – but nobody predicted what this was going to be – so it may take some time for us to come out of the pandemic period.

“We’re not clear what the new normal will be exactly like, but we will evolve and develop our business just as our predecessors have done for over 160 years to meet the needs of our communities,” he said.