Heart of England Co-operative has reported an all-time record of £95.4m in gross sales, while profits equated 6.1% of turnover.
Moreover, the society’s net worth now stands at £41.6m, with a network of 57 food, non-food and travel and funeral outlets across Coventry, Warwickshire, South Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. Sales have also increased by 9.9% at its flagship Rugby home and living store.
Even though the funeral sector has experienced a shrinking market, the society’s funeral division achieved record profits, with a 9.9% increase from the previous year.
Ali Kurji, chief executive of Heart of England, said 2013 had been one of the most challenging years in the society’s history, due to the economic crisis as well as austerity measures and increased competition. He said: “Every year sees our retail climate getting tougher and tougher so I am delighted our society managed to perform satisfactorily, with the food and funeral divisions performing well despite all the challenges.
“I believe this success is down to the policies implemented in recent years and which we continue to adopt to this day. Although it is getting tougher, I am delighted our business continues to operate with no borrowings. Indeed we have invested more than £5m this year and I believe this level of investment has helped us reap dividends.”
As part of the society’s continued investment programme, 30 out of 34 food stores were re-branded and refurbished. In the next year, Heart of England aims to expand its network of stores. The society has also increased its membership to 248,156 over the year, representing an increase of 3.2% from 2013.
Added Mr Kurji: “2013 was an extremely tough year for every one, although we achieved very satisfactory results which by no means had been easy. Of course much of our success is down to our customers and our members. Through our members’ benefits, our discount events and our refurbishment and renewal programme, we hope they will take these as a token of thanks for all the loyalty they continue to show us.
“Last but not least, I would like to pay tribute to all my staff. They do not have an easy job but without their continued commitment – in which I regularly see instances above and beyond the call of duty – we would not have come this far.”
While the non-food and travel division remain the more challenging aspects of the business, the society has achieved positive results this year. The non-food division attracted many customers with its newly refurbished store in Atherstone, following a £423,000 investment.
Over the past 14 years, the society contributed £786,000 to the local community, as part of its Helping Hearts Awards Scheme, with a percentage of its profits shared across its trading community.
Mr Kurji added: “I am expecting the next 12 months also to be tough, but with the continued efforts of every member of staff I know our members and customers will benefit from the best experience which is synonymous with the Heart of England Co-operative Society name.”