In its annual report for the year ending 27 January, 2018, Central England Co-operative has recorded an operating profit of £16.6m, up £5.3m on the previous year.
Gross sales were £848.3m (up from £843,5m) and the society made £3.7m payments to stakeholders.
The society said it had made capital expenditure of £36.6m under “an ambitious growth strategy”, opening seven new food stores and nine new funeral homes, and completing refurbishments at 30 food stores and 18 funeral homes.
Chief executive Martyn Cheatle said: “We achieved another very encouraging and resilient performance in 2017 from both a financial and non-financial perspective, underlining our strength as a modern, progressive, co-operative business. Trading conditions remained very challenging and highly competitive throughout the year in all the markets in which the Society operates.
“Increased sales in our convenience stores, including growth from new openings, were partially offset by continued pressure in our large stores and supermarkets.
“Our funeral business experienced increased competition in both the pre-need and at-need markets but delivered a solid performance with sales above the prior year across our combined funeral business streams.
“The society’s travel shops performed well during the year, with increased sales reflecting growth in specialist niche sectors including long haul, cruise holidays, tailor-made and escorted tours.”
The report said the society’s had cut its carbon footprint by 35.8% since its baseline position in 2010, and over the last year it continued to invest in new energy-efficient lighting and refrigeration equipment, together with the installation of a new biomass boiler at its coffin factory.
Its support for local communities saw it complete the installation of more than 300 defibrillators across its food store and funeral home locations, funded by the 5p carrier bag levy. It has also extended the roll-out of food bank collection points to almost 200 food stores across our food estate.
In the first half of 2017 the society reached its fundraising target of £1.5m for Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children, after a five-year partnership with Newlife. In August, Central England announced a new colleague-elected corporate charity partnership with Dementia UK.
The society’s second independently produced Social Return on Investment (SROI) report highlighted encouraging progress, with every £1 invested by the society generating a positive community benefit of £23.15 – which equates to a total social value of £2.2m.
It says this is an improvement on the first SROI report, published in 2017, which highlighted a community benefit of £20.50 for every £1 invested by the society. Further research will be conducted in 2018 to ensure our membership and community activity is targeted in areas that will have the greatest impact.
The society’s work saw it awarded the maximum 5 stars out of 5 in Business in the Community’s 2018 Corporate Responsibility Index.
Central England president Elaine Dean paid tribute in the annual report to the society’s “beingcoopy” Christmas community campaign, its commitments on modern slavery, gender equality and international hurricane and flood appeals, and the appointment of an extra member and community relations officer.
“Our plans for 2018 aim to further demonstrate our co-operative credentials,” she wrote.