East of England Co-op has reported an increase in trading profits increase across its food, funeral and property businesses its annual results for 2018/19.
Alongside underlying trading profit which is up 33.2% to £5.6m, members’ funds have increased by £12.1m to £224.6m.
The food business saw a 2.2% increase in sales, with stores benefiting from the harsh winter and long hot summer, as well as reaping the rewards of their store refurbishment programme and investment in technology.
Following the expansion of its funeral business in 2017/18, market share is growing, despite a fall in the UK death rate.
The society says its property investment business has also seen continued success, with rental income nearing £8m per year from over 450 properties, including new housing developments on Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich and The Thoroughfare in Woodbridge.
Its former department store on Carr Street, Ipswich, has been sold to Ipswich Borough Council to make way for a primary school.
Doug Field, joint chief executive at the society, said: “We are seeing the benefits of doing business the co-operative way and investing in our business. Our ability to leverage the technology we have invested in within our food business has made a big difference.
“Leading the agenda on food waste, we will continue to develop our Co-op Guide to Dating initiative to save more edible food from going to landfill. We have now introduced fresh and frozen lines to the hugely successful scheme, which has seen over 200,000 items saved from going to waste.
“We will continue to offer our Apprenticeship Programme, which has seen 100% retention rates with many graduates going on to higher level education and management opportunities within the business, retaining local talent for the future.
“Following a re-launch in 2018, our security business, Co-op Secure Response continues to experience significant growth, with sales now approaching £1.5m, having extended the availability of our expert services to businesses across East Anglia and the United Kingdom.
“I am incredibly proud of the efforts of all our colleagues in delivering the increase in profits. It wouldn’t be possible without their hard work.”
Sourced Locally sales continued to rise with over £18m of products sold in 2018.
Market conditions remain challenging, said the society, with the rising costs of doing business including the National Living Wage and rising inflation.
But Mr Field added: “Our long-term strategy remains the same – to continue to maintain a strong and sustainable business, to generate profits and support our communities.
“We are continuing our successful food strategy, investing in technology and ensuring we have a contemporary food store estate. The success of recent years is in part due to making sure we have the right stores in the right place. Whilst this led to a small number of store closures in 2018, we continue to look for new food store opportunities.”
He said coming investments for 2019 include funeral branch refurbishments, additions to its property investment portfolio with developments in Colchester and Woodbridge, and the development of Co-op Secure Response will continue.