East of England Co-op has released its annual results for the year to 22 January, with trading profit falling to £1.5m from £7.5m the previous year.
Overall, pre-tax profits rose to £7.6m for 2021/2022 financial year, following a loss of £1.7m during the previous year. This was down to an increase in the value of the society’s investment property portfolio and not having the one-off costs it saw in 2020/21.
It said the underlying trading profit of £1.5m was lower than expected following “a challenging year” which saw disruption to the supply chain in its food stores in late 2021.
Turnover fell slightly by 0.3% as people’s food shopping habits returned to normal following the national lockdowns the society added. But food sales were 5.9% higher last year than in in 2019/20, the pre-pandemic being taken as a comparable benchmark by much of the retail industry, and the decline was partially offset by an increase in sales of more than 50% at East of England Co-op petrol filling stations.
Elsewhere within the business, East of England reported a 1.2% increase in the number of funerals taking place, an increase in income from its investment properties and an 18.3% increase in sales through its stonemasonry business, H L Perfitt, generating sales in excess of £2m.
Joint CEO Doug Field said: “It’s been a much tougher 12 months than we anticipated due to factors outside of our control. However, the resolve shown by our colleagues in dealing with the challenges we’ve faced has been staggering. They deserve all the credit for our positive impact in the region.
“Despite it being a challenging year, we’re pleased to have recorded a growth in pre-tax profits and increases in sales across our investment property, petrol filling stations, funeral and stonemasonry businesses. Overall, we are ending the 2021/22 financial year with a strong balance sheet and sound finances, and we have the funds and resources to continue to invest in growing our business.
“We will also continue to work hard to improve the daily lives of our members, communities, customers and colleagues. The success of our co-op is based on this foundation, and we’ll continue to support our communities through these changing times.”
During the year, the society awarded more than £200,000 worth of grants to local voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations through its Community Cares Fund. Established in April 2020, the Community Cares Fund offers grants of up to £5,000 to projects offering support on everything from community action, mental health and wellbeing, and food justice.
East of England also donated more than £22,000 to 25 food banks across Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk last year as it continued to lead the fight for food justice in the region. This included cash donations directly to food banks, along with money raised through their food bank donation gift cards as well as items donated by their members, customers and colleagues via their in-store donation points.