Central Co-op defies inflation to grow trading profit to £10m

‘The cost-of-living crisis will continue to challenge consumer confidence and reduced spending,’ warned CEO Debbie Robinson

Central Co-op has issued its results for the year to 27 January, with underlying trading profit rising 9.6% to £10m (2023: £9.1m).

This was in line with budget expectations, with an improved trading performance partially offset by cost
headwinds in people and energy costs.

Operating profit was £20.7m (2023: £3.2m), including profit on disposal of fixed assets, impairment charges and revaluation of investment properties.

Central’s 2022 financial year was a 53-week year, so on a comparative 52-week basis, underlying turnover grew by 2.6% and trading profit grew by 21.7%.

Capital expenditure of £35.1m (2023: £37.0m) saw the society open six new stores, two new cafés, regenerate 25 stores, continue the roll-out of self-checkout tills and invest in digital shelf edge labels. Central also invested in digital at its funeral business, and spent money on its new Support Centre and the roll-out of solar panels across its estate.

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CEO Debbie Robinson said the society was working to control costs at the cost-of-living crisis and global instability continued to put pressure on the trading environment.

This increased costs in the retail business, while “the declining death rate impacted our funeral
business. Our third sector is our investment estate which continues to perform well across both owner-operated and tenanted sites.”

CEO Debbie Robinson (Image: Co-operatives UK)

Going forward, the society continues to pursue a strategy of “growing meaningful membership”, attaining green energy self-sufficiency and growing sales to young people.

The society’s Malawi Partnership has entered its second year, said Robinson, “and in the last 12 months we’ve made connections to Malawi’s government, through their High Commission as part of their vision to become an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant nation by 2063. We continue to work in partnership
with the Co-operative College and Malawi Federation of Co-operatives.”

Sales of the Malawi range in Central stores have passed £400,000 since our the partnership began, she added.

Central also continues its efforts on retail crime, “with incidents of abuse, threats and violent crime rising again this past year,” said Robinson. “We continue to invest in initiatives to keep our colleagues safe.”

In terms of outlook for 2024, “the cost-of-living crisis will continue to challenge consumer confidence and reduced spending,” she warned. “We will remain focused on offering the best value we can to our members and customers.”