WEST Midlands Co-op has achieved record profits, which for the first time have exceeded £ 5 million.
The trading surplus of £ 5,165,000 for the year ended 27 September, 2003 is a 19.5 per cent increase over last year.
The Walsall-based society employs more than 2,100 people across five core businesses ? food, travel, funerals, pharmacies and care homes.
Chief Executive Ben Reid said: "This enables us to view the future with optimism, despite the inevitable challenges we will face in the increasingly competitive retail environment."
The annual report shows that group turnover rose by seven per cent, from £ 151 million to just under £ 163 million. During the year the society invested more than £ 5 million in acquisitions, refurbishments and capital projects. The society's net assets now exceed £ 59 million.
The best performance came from the Food Division said Mr Reid: "The performance of this division has been outstanding, with turnover up by nine per cent. This clearly demonstrates our share of the food market in our trading area has increased over the year."
Travel had a difficult 12 months, with the aftermath of 11 September 2001, war in the Middle East and the SARS outbreak. But there were signs that bookings were starting to recover. More than 100,000 holidays were booked through the society's Co-op Travel branches during the year.
Pharmacy did well with a large increase in the number of prescriptions dispensed. Highlights for the Funeral Division included the establishment of the West Midlands Asian Funeral Service, which has funeral homes in Walsall and Tipton, underlining the society's commitment to serve all sections of the community.
Major alterations to the co-op's three care homes in Dudley area were also completed, though the national shortage of nurses continues to present a challenge in recruiting qualified staff for the society's two nursing homes.
West Midlands Co-op has also increased its considerable involvement with the community, and society employees are now entitled to 21 hours paid time each year for approved community service work.
Over the year £ 104,000 of grants and donations were awarded to groups and organisations throughout West Midlands Co-op's trading area.
Mr Reid concluded: "This year has seen a significant move forward on a number of fronts, not only in profitability but also the recognition of our responsibilities to underlying co-operative values and principles."