The head of the Co-op has said she plans to ration her children to one small Christmas present each in a gesture of solidarity with customers struggling with cost of living crisis.
Shirine Khoury-Haq, who is expected to be paid more than £1m this year, told the Sunday Times that her six-year-old twin daughters were “dealing with” their mother’s imposition of a one-gift rule. One had asked for a Barbie and the other wanted a Paw Patrol toy, she said.
She added that in previous years she had given her daughters an “embarrassing” number of gifts, but such largesse felt morally unjustified in the current economic climate.
“It just feels like excess, given what’s happening in the world. In good conscience, I can’t do that in my own home,” Khoury-Haq said.
“The rest of our budget will be given to Santa to provide presents for children whose parents can’t contribute to the elves. We’re going to go out shopping for those other presents and [we will] send them to Santa.”
She told the Sunday Times the cost of living crisis was “ undeniable now and people are having to make choices about whether they keep their homes warm or they put food on the table”. This leaves parents “making choices about whether they eat or their children eat” – many for the first time.
Khoury-Haq’s frugal domestic Christmas mirrors a business decision she has recently made about Christmas advertising.
The 51-year-old, who was appointed in August, has decided against producing a Co-op Christmas advertising campaign that was likely to cost up to £15m. Instead, the Co-op is promoting the expansion of a chain of subsidised supermarkets called Your Local Pantry. Under the scheme, those struggling to make ends meet pay a small entry fee in return for grocery items they need.
Explaining the idea to ITV’s Good Morning Britain last week, she said: “People can go in for between £4 and £5 and get groceries that are many more times that amount.
“People need help accessing food for the first time ever, and they don’t want a handout; they want to hand up and they want to be able to choose the foods they want.”