CHELMSFORD Star Co-op has announced that after a difficult period it is continuing to build on its success of recent years by reporting positive results in its annual report.
The results for the 53 weeks ended 31st January 2004 show that the society's gross takings reached £ 43,229,978, an increase of 5.95 per cent.
Trading profit before depreciation amounted to £ 1,648,737 which is 4.75 per cent of net sales, an increase of £ 272,650 or 20 per cent.
With a year-on-year improvement of 50 per cent, the trading profit has reached £ 784,286. Operating costs increased by £ 414,988 but fell as a proportion of net sales by 0.54 per cent.
After providing for members' share interest and a proposed dividend on purchases, £ 108,295 has been added to reserves.
The society has 22 convenience stores; three department stores; three funeral homes; and three Travelcentres across mid-Essex.
The food division accounted for 68 per cent of the society's gross takings, with sales climbing 5.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis.
The gross takings for the non-food division show a decrease of 1.9 per cent with ladies' fashion and housewares being the areas of greatest difficulty.
While deaths in its trading area fell by 7.3 per cent the society's funeral division managed to increase its market share by 0.41 per cent confirming its status as one of the leading funeral directors in mid-Essex.
Its travel arm experienced difficulties at the start of the year, but it managed to make a good recovery by the end of the year, making a strong contribution to the society's earnings.
Membership increased by 1,149 with its total base reaching 47.965 ? the society welcomed 1,309 new members while 160 people left.
Tony Gudgeon, Chief Executive Officer of the society, said: "I am pleased that we have delivered a budget-beating result, but there is still room for further improvement.
"We will be continuing to work hard on the society's transformation from loss-making to strong and sustained profitability."
At the society's recent annual general meeting the board unveiled a number of new initiatives for the following year including values and principles training for employees; a director recruitment campaign; a schools citizenship project; postal voting in society elections; and a social report for 2005.
The directors report said of the projects: "The majority of these initiatives are major projects and some are in their very early stages, but members will be more fully updated at the members' meetings and via the Social Report, which we intend to introduce in January 2005."