Brand tonic for Midlands

Midlands Co-op Chief Executive John Fitzgerald has highlighted the Movement’s ethical values — plus the adoption of the Co-operative brand — as key reasons behind the society’s continuing...

The society, Britain’s biggest independent with over 8,000 employees and around 170,000 active members, has announced big profit and sales increases for the half-year ended August 8th.

Despite the impact of the recession, trading profit was up six per cent to £16 million and sales increased by ten per cent to almost £503m.

Said Mr Fitzgerald: “In an economic climate which has shaken consumer confidence in more ways than one, the ethical values at the heart of the Co-operative Movement appear to be striking a chord with today’s consumer. And our decision to adopt the Co-operative brand earlier this year is allowing us to tap in to our shared brand equity more strongly at the same time as reinforcing it.”

Retail achieved sales of £297m (up from £286m last year). In the travel division, sales of £164m reflect an increase of 15 per cent in the first half of the year, helped by growth in the higher value travel sectors and good results from society foreign exchange booths.

In the society’s funeral business, arrangement sales of £13m are level with last year, but market share is up by one per cent despite the decline in the death rate.

Sales in the funeral support businesses have improved and in particular, the floral business has performed well. The society’s property investment portfolio has generated £4.3m rental income — a two per cent rise.

The interim report says £22m has been invested during the half-year, including the acquisition of former Somerfield stores in Stafford, Rugeley, Cotteridge and Stone. Midlands also refurbished 22 food stores and started an extensive programme of refurbishments for its travel and funeral premises. The society is currently fitting out a food store in Fradley and later this month will open an eco-friendly store in Oakham.

The society strengthened its business travel operation with the acquisition of Senior International Travel in June and the business has now been re-branded Forward Travel Management (FTM), bringing it in line with other business travel branches, which provide business travel solutions to companies operating across the UK.

Meanwhile the report points out that over £81,000 has been distributed to community groups in its trading area, through the Making a Difference Community Dividend fund in the last six months, while staff have raised over £120,000 for the society’s nominated charity, the British Heart Foundation.

Added Mr Fitzgerald: “It is very encouraging to be able to report a continuing strong financial performance against the backdrop of such exceptional fiscal conditions. All-in-all, our business strategy has proved to be very robust and we remain in a stable financial position giving us the opportunity to invest for future growth.”

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