The Southern Co-operative is celebrating strong annual results, which saw a 4.7% increase in total income to £366.8m for the 53 weeks to 30 January 2016, and a 4.4% increase in Group operating profit to £4.8m.
The Society, which has 250 community food stores and funeral operations in 11 counties across the south of England, invested £17m back into the business last year and opened 11 new stores. The investment let the society “implement important changes to store layouts that will enable us to more accurately match our product ranges to the needs of local customers,” said Mark Smith, chief executive.
He added: “Retail sales in the year grew by £14.5m to £346.3m while sales of locally sourced products, branded as Local Flavours and now stocked in 75% of our stores, increased by 10%. More generally like-for-like food sales strengthened during the year and were 3.1% higher in the final quarter
“These results reflect the continued hard work and commitment of all our colleagues.
“To support our growing scale we continued our investment in our people, primarily through our internal TSC Academy which allows colleagues, at all levels, to learn and develop.”
Southern also grew its end of life services to 52 funeral homes and provided 5,200 families with funeral, cremation or natural burial services.
A major project over the year was a drive for energy efficiency and a reduction of carbon emissions across its estate. The society reported that since 2010, energy efficiency in stores has now improved by 38%, while the installation of LED lighting throughout food stores this year is predicted to save a further 1,800 tonnes a year of carbon and around £0.4m a year in electricity costs going forward.
Southern shared profits totalling £2.8m during 2015, rewarding member purchases at a rate of 2p in the £1 – a rate which has been maintained since 2010. Local communities benefited from total contributions of nearly £0.7m.
“In the coming year we will focus investment on further developing our convenience food offer, including additional work on ranging and the opening of 20 new stores, whilst we continue work to mature the more recent openings in our End of Life Services business,” said Mr Smith. “Our longstanding commitment to supporting our communities will benefit from the launch of our Love Your Neighbourhood initiative in 2016.”