Supermarket price rises ‘are coming’, Co-op boss warns amid supply chain crisis



Further supermarket price increases are “coming” due to Britain’s ongoing supply chain crisis, a supermarket boss has warned.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-op, said the supermarket’s profits are also likely to slump as a result of the crisis.

His comments come less than 24 hours after new figures published by the Office for National Statistics showed inflation rose to 3.2 per cent in July – the biggest jump ever recorded.

The cost of some food products have already soared and energy costs are to set rise going into the winter.

Shops across the UK have been unable to stock some product lines due to the twin hit of Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

Staff absences due to the virus and labour shortages following Britain’s exit from the EU are contributing to empty shelves in some shops.

Amid increased shipping costs and global commodity price rises, Mr Murrells said the Co-op will look to offset the cost pressures “as best we can”, but said “some of that will filter down” to customers.

The member-owned group, which also provides funeral care and other services, reported underlying pre-tax operating losses of £15m for the six months to 3 July, compared with profits of £56m a year ago, as it was hit by product availability issues and the continuing impact of the pandemic.

It warned that the “unplanned supply chain challenges and ongoing Covid costs will bring greater levels of uncertainty”.

“This will in turn apply pressure on our prior expected level of profitability for year-end,” it said.

The supply chain problems are set to worsen over the next few months, just as food retailers are preparing for the peak Christmas season.

Mr Murrells said this may affect some festive ranges, but sought to reassure shoppers that, while they “might not be able to get every size of turkey, you will be able to get a turkey for your Christmas meal”.

“We’re right in the middle of the storm and everybody is trying to find a short, mid and long-term solution to this,” he added.

Half-year results showed that food sales at the supermarket arm, excluding fuel, fell 2.8 per cent in the first half against surging trading a year earlier during the early stages of the pandemic.

The results came as the Co-op also announced a new partnership with Amazon and moves to ramp up an acceleration of robot deliveries to more than double online sales to £200 million by the year end.

But it faced some criticism from the GMB trade union over the move to team up with Amazon, which has come under pressure over workers’ rights and the amount of tax it pays.

Mr Murrells said: “Amazon wants to be a force for social good.

“But it’s a trial – customers and members will tell us whether or not we have done the right thing.”

The group’s results showed that sales at the funerals business were down 7 per cent as the number of funerals plunged 17 per cent following a fall in death rates since last March.

Elsewhere, legal services revenues edged 5 per cent higher to £20 million.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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