THE UK's Co-op stores have achieved a modest 0.1 per cent turnover increase at a time of low sales growth across the retail sector, according to figures released at Congress.
The results for the 42 retail co-ops in membership of Co-operatives UK showed a combined turnover of £ 13.3 billion for the year ended January 2005.
In terms of turnover, the best performing retail societies were Scotmid (up 24.5 per cent), United (up 12.9 per cent) and Chelmsford Star (up 10.2 per cent), though Co-operatives UK say the Scotmid figure is probably overstated due to the fact that no revaluation to current values of land and buildings was available.
However when profits are measured as a percentage of sales, Lothian, Borders & Angus come out on top at 6.6 per cent with Lincolnshire and Colchester & East Essex close behind, both on 6.4 per cent.
At the other end of the scale, the well-documented problems within the Co-operative Group saw the society's turnover drop by four per cent to £ 8.5 billion. The sell-off of Ilkeston Society's motor business to United was largely responsible for an 11.8 per cent drop there, while Shoefayre saw turnover reduced by 4.1 per cent and profits down 3.1 per cent as a percentage of sales.
The figures also make bleak reading for some of the Movement's smaller retail societies with sales down at Nith Valley, Brixham, Desborough and Coniston Co-ops.
However the specialist Out of this World operation, which trades as The Creative Consumer and specialises in organic and wholefood products, saw turnover increase by over 26 per cent – though profit as a percentage of sales remains low at 1.6 per cent.
The Phone Co-op also saw a huge increase in turnover – up 28 per cent – and achieved profits of £ 191,000.
The statistics were presented to Congress by Ben Reid, chair of Co-operatives UK, who said: "Whilst down on last year's record results, the figures are still the second best in the Movement's recent past.
"The underlying trend over the past five years is one of steady improvement and within these figures there are some excellent results by individual societies."
A statement issued by Co-operatives UK highlighted the success of United Co-operatives, who achieved profit growth of 22.4 per cent; Channel Islands Society, which saw profits increase by almost 27 per cent and Leeds Co-op whose profits rose by around 38 per cent.
Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, commented: "The results reflect difficult trading conditions for everyone on the high street, but our results demonstrate a five year improvement of which we are proud.
"Co-operatives share a vision which includes contributing to the communities in which they operate. We know that by improving their financial performance co-ops are in a stronger position to meet their wider social objectives and that is our focus for 2006."