Chelmsford Star lifts takings but tough economy hits profit

‘The society has done a sterling job to mitigate the escalating costs as much as possible’, says CEO Barry Wood

Chelmsford Star Co-op has released its annual results for the 52 weeks to 28 January, with a 6.7% increase in gross takings.

Trading surplus was £64,882, down from £492,675 the previous year, while turnover rose from £80m to £82m; but the figures, revealed at the co-op’s AGM, also show a retained deficit before tax of £382,193, down from a £269,856 surplus the year before.

The increased sales come despite a bleak assessment of the economy from CEO Barry Wood, with the co-op facing pressures including a 15-year high in interest rates and a 40-year high in inflation.

“Plus, as any struggling family will know, energy costs have increased, and ours have gone up 70% year on year,” said Wood, “and this is despite a 3% reduction in energy consumption. Our distribution costs have increased £161,000, and this is despite a 7.9% drop in food volume.

“The society has done a sterling job to mitigate the escalating costs as much as possible.” Operating costs as a whole had increased by 6.2%, leaving the society generating a trading profit of £65k for the year.”

Despite the difficult conditions, Chelmsford Star distributed around £30,000 in grants to local charities, to the DEC’s appeal to assist Ukraine and in support to Essex-based community groups. It had also introduced new benefits for its members, with total savings for them so far this year exceeding £30,000.

Looking at the gross takings of each of the society’s businesses, core ranges at food stores fell by 1% against a volume decline of 7.9%. However, the Quadrant department stores reported an increase of 37% despite footfall still being 39% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Co-op Travel branches increased by 280% as the travel industry continues to rebound following the pandemic. Co-op Funeral Directors increased by 6% ‘year on year’, helped in part by a new branch in Basildon.

Wood said that while there may be some difficult decisions being made in the year ahead, to protect the society longer term, Chelmsford Star Co-op will continue support of its members and communities.

Electricity consumption fell by 3% compared to last year but net CO2 emissions increased by 8.8% as a result of an increased usage of refrigerant gases.

The society added 2,191 members, bringing the tally to 93,601, of whom 24% are considered active.