Central England Co-op has enjoyed a good year’s trading, with its annual results to 26 January showing gross sales up 2.5% £869.9m, and trading profit up 4.4% to £18.1m.
Outgoing chief executive Martyn Cheatle said: “The society delivered another strong performance in 2018, with good progress being achieved across the business from both a financial and non-financial perspective.”
This performance was made against a difficult backdrop, he added, noting competitive markets and a steady decline in consumer confidence because of concern and uncertainty over Brexit.
“Against this intensely competitive environment and uncertain economic backdrop, our total gross sales (excluding VAT) rose by 2.5% to £869.9m (2017/18: £848.3m),” he wrote.
“Increased sales in our convenience stores, including growth from new openings, were partially offset by continued pressure in our larger food stores and supermarkets. We traded particularly well during the harsh winter and long hot summer together with strong sales during key seasonal events such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter and Christmas.”
Mr Cheatle said there had also been strong performance in the society’s funeral and travel decisions, and hailed an investment programme which has seen 10 new food stores and six new funeral homes open during the year, alongside refurbishments at 35 existing food retail sites and 17 funeral homes. Capital expenditure for the year was £28.7m.
The society shared Community Dividend Fund grants of £173,000 between more than 140 community groups and charities, while its charity partnership with Dementia UK hit the £1m milestone.
Over 250,000 items were donated by customers and members to food bank collection points and over 130 food stores operating as part of a food redistribution project.
And stakeholder groups of members, colleagues and communities shared a £3.5m dividend payout.
The society continured its work on positive mental health with the training 100 dedicated mental health and wellbeing champions.
Its carbon footprint dropping by 48% against the society’s 2010 baseline position.
Society president Elaine Dean said: “Our strategy remains focused on maintaining the society’s position as a strong, member-owned co-operative business.
“We firmly believe that our values and principles of co-operation are as relevant today as they have ever been and our positive results again demonstrate the Society’s resilience to operate in a highly competitive market.”