Central Co-op weathers inflation pressures to post £7.6m interim profit

CEO Debbie Robinson also updated members on efforts to tackle the cost of living crisis, retail crime and climate change

Central Co-op has released its interim results, with gross sales up 4.1% to £532.1m and a slight fall in trading profit, down 3.8% to £7.6m. Net assets stand at £273.1m, down 1.2% from the £276.4m reported for the same period last year.

CEO Debbie Robinson says the results have held strong despite inflation pressures and a mixed picture on the weather front, with a boost to performance during a warm June offset by a wet and windy July.  

“Continuing levels of high inflation adversely affects the cost-of-living crisis,” she wrote in the report, “hitting consumer pockets particularly with increased food and mortgage costs, dampening hopes of short-term recovery, and resulting in a reduced spending capacity.”

She said the society is studying industry trends and revising its strategy and operations to drive down prices. Central has invested £2m in prices for key value lines and introduced a wide range of member prices.

“To help our colleagues meet the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis, we significantly invested in frontline colleagues’ wellbeing and livelihood, with increased rates of pay, setting our minimum pay rate to £10.75 per hour,” added Robinson. “We also launched our Difference Maker hub, a reward, recognition, and engagement platform”.

The society has continued its efforts to tackle retail crime, she said, with a £750,000 investment to improve loss prevention and safety measures, such as new colleague headsets, body-worn cameras, increased store security guards and a store detective presence. 

Central Co-op CEO Debbie Robinson

“We remain passionate and prioritise our efforts to protect our colleagues, members, and customers,” said Robinson, “and continue to raise awareness of violence and aggression of our retail workers through local media coverage, local constabularies, police and crime commissioners and members of Parliament. I have personally written to 22 MPs this year following incidents towards our colleagues, and welcomed Alex Norris MP, who is leading new Parliamentary bill for the better protection for shop workers from abuse while doing their jobs, to meet and talk to colleagues in our Hickings Lane store to discuss anti-social behaviour and colleague safety.”

Since the start of 2023 the society says it has launched three new local stores, regenerated 20 community stores and two funeral homes, and is committed to investing £39m in growth for 2023.

Solar panels have been rolled out to 64 stores, generating an average 30% of electricity required for those stores and representing approximately 6.5% of Central’s total consumption. The funeral division has made “steady progress” in reducing energy consumption, working towards a fully electric fleet.

The co-op continues its Malawi partnership, with products from the range now stocked in Midcounties, Lincolnshire, Scotmid and Radstock co-ops.