Total sales at Lincolnshire Co-operative rose 5.4% to £329m for the financial year to September 2018, the society says in its annual report.
Group trading surplus rose 10.2% to £17.7m, the society says, with 25 million customers shopping in its stores or using its services. Over the summer, the co-op witnessed a sales boost of 6.9%.
During the year, the society opened 10 new outlets, including food stores, pharmacies, travel branches and a funeral home, thanks to a £25.7m investment in capital projects which also included new equipment, regeneration projects and community investment. Cash balances at the end of 12-month period were at £26m.
The co-op’s Love Local range witnessed sales of £3.2m, up £1m from the previous year. The society works with 41 producers to bring 189 different lines to its customers. Overall, sales in food stores rose 6.9%.
Non-retail businesses also performed well. The number of passengers booking holidays with the co-op rose 3.5%, following investment in the travel business and the opening of a new branch in Retford, with teams in Grantham and Tritton Road, Lincoln relocated. Total travel sales went up 5.4%.
Around 9% more people invested in Lincolnshire Co-op’s Funeral Plan to 10,600 customers, while a new funeral arrangement office opened in Caistor.
Lincolnshire’s pharmacy branches outperformed the market, recording a rise of 2.4% in prescription growth. Its teams in branch carried out more than 12,000 NHS Medicine Use Reviews, helped 4,000 people with new medicines, administered 3,500 flu jabs and gave 600 people a free health check. The society also led a free weight management scheme, in which 500 people took part.
As members of the local Dementia Action Alliance, the co-op has trained 567 colleagues as Dementia Friends and delivered a further seven awareness sessions on the condition. It also promoted a number public health campaigns, including stopping smoking, blood pressure and asthma.
The society’s membership stands at 285,813 members – including 10,360 juniors – with 25,987 new members this year. Its dividend card app launched last year was used for 79,000 transactions last year.
In light of these results, the board is recommending to members that £4,131,000 is allocated to dividend this year. Already, £2,233,000 has been paid out on purchases. The board suggests members approve a dividend bonus of 85p per £1 collected during the year, a total of £1.9m.
The co-op raised £545,000 for the local community, which was split between 234 organisations, including local community groups, Prostate Cancer UK, the Royal British Legion and the RAF Benevolent Fund. Money also went to lunch clubs, friendship groups and other charities tackling social isolation. Around 600 people attended the society’s Community Cuppa scheme, set up to tackle loneliness.
The society has been working with the University of Lincoln to create the Lincoln Science and Innovation Park, which has given 12 high-tech businesses a base and created local employment. The two organisations have also set up the School of Pharmacy on the park, with its first students graduating this year.
The co-op’s Get Into Retail partnership with the Prince’s Trust has seen 18 young people who had struggled to find employment receive training, qualifications and experience. Since the project began, 46 of the candidates have started working for Lincolnshire Co-op.
The society employs 2,800 colleagues, who were rewarded this year with profit-share bonuses totalling an extra 140% of their weekly wage. Staff contributed 50,000 hours to community projects this year, including the Big Co-op Clean in June, which saw 249 colleagues make a difference to projects in Holbeach, Louth, Brigg, Nettleham, Swaton, Caistor, Grimsby, Saxilby and Skegness.
Lincolnshire has been working with local construction firm Lindum to create new housing with a joint venture, LC Community Projects. Planning permission has been obtained to develop the society former dairy site in Pinchbeck. The society is also providing space and back-office support to East Midlands Community-Led Housing (EMCLH), which helps residents develop projects in their area.
In an energy saving initiative, the co-op introduced doors on fridges in 17 sites with another eight planned. This keeps the stores at more comfortable temperature and saves around 20% energy per store.
The value of Lincolnshire Co-op’s properties decreased £13m. According to the society’s report, this is due to higher bond yields, which affected its property assets and pension scheme liabilities. The society’s net assets have increased by £8m to £309m.
Lincolnshire Co-op’s chief executive Ursula Lidbetter said: “We’re delighted with our strong trading performance this year, particularly in the current tough retail climate. It’s not just about the figures, though. I’m proud of all the ways we make an impact in our community.
“Looking after people’s wellbeing with the Community Cuppa scheme, aiming to bring people together and help them make connections. Boosting the local economy by using firms from our area to build our outlets. Giving smaller producers a route to a wider customer base through our successful Love Local range. It all makes a difference.
“I’m thankful to colleagues, members, volunteers and everyone we work with, for coming together to achieve what we have this year.”