Heart of England Co-op continues its £12m investment programme

‘We continue to operate with no borrowings and we continue to invest our profits back into our society’

The Heart of England Co-operative Society is in the midst of a record £12m capital investment programme as it seeks to ensure the long-term future sustainability of the business.

The society, which operates a network of food stores and funeral homes in Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, has mapped out its growth plans for the next five years.

The retailer recently welcomed shoppers through the doors of its new £1.8m food store at Rotherham Road in the Holbrooks area of Coventry – the 33rd store in the society’s network.

The latest addition comes on the back of an extensive renovation and extension of an existing store in the New Bilton area of Rugby resulting in an increase in trade of 16% at a cost of in excess of £750,000.

As part of the project, the society utilised non-trading parts of the store and took over the neighbouring florist to extend its floor space by 503 sq. ft to 2,200 sq. ft.

This in turn has allowed the society to introduce new offerings such as Costa Express, vegan food range, European food range, and hot Food to Go, and to increase its existing ranges including fresh food, Food to Go, chilled drinks, sandwiches and fresh foods including pizzas and ready meals.

Also this year the society has invested £600,000 in renovating its Attleborough store in Nuneaton, with a new and improved Food To Go offering with hot food, hot dogs and Slush Puppies.

In September the society marked the opening of the 14th Funeral home in its network – a £620,000 facility situated within a Grade II building in Towcester, Northamptonshire.

Inside the Attleborough store

The society also took delivery of three new Mercedes Benz hearses and three new Mercedes Benz limousines – worth a collective £700,000 – as well as a new ambulance worth £50,000.

The retailer will open a further two food stores by the end of January and plans to increase its portfolio further by 2023.

The new developments come despite the ongoing economic uncertainty in the UK, says the society.

In its interim results, it said the unpredictability of Brexit, the weak pound and increased competition in the market all impacted on sales in the 21 weeks to June 21st.

Operating profit from the period stands at £2m and the society continues to operate with no borrowings.

In the funerals division, like-for-like sales fell by 9.6 per cent over the 21 weeks while food sales increased by 4.7 per cent.

Ali Kurji, chief executive of the society, said: “The first half of 2019 has been extremely challenging. Similarly, we have been expecting the rest of the year to prove just as challenging, not least because of Brexit.

“But our society remains in a strong financial position. We continue to operate with no borrowings and we continue to invest our profits back into our society for the benefit of our staff, members and customers.”

A look at the society’s newest store

The society’s new £1.8m store in Rotherham Road, in the Holbrooks area of Coventry, is the first new store opened by the society since 2016.

Inside the 3,700 sq. ft facility customers are greeted with by the fresh food aisle with fresh fruit and vegetables.

New features include Costa Coffee, Rollover Hot Dogs, Slush Puppies and a Tango Ice Blast Machine, all of which are proving hugely popular among customers and will be rolled out across the society’s store portfolio, further increasing footfall.

There is also an extensive chilled selection, a bakery which uses locally sourced goods, a vegan range and a Free From range.

The society also invested heavily in IT and self-scanning devices to add to the customer experience.

Outside there is a large car park.

The society also welcomed customers through the doors of its recently extended and refurbished store in New Bilton, Rugby.

With a price tag of in excess of £750,000, the project saw the incorporation of the neighbouring florist shop which the society used to extend its floor space by 503 sq. ft to 2,200 sq. ft.

The extra floor space allows the society to increase its Fresh Food, Food to Go and chilled drinks ranges, while new offerings include a vegan range, a European food range and a Tango Ice Blast machine – moves which have been welcomed by the 3,400 customers who shop at the store each week.

Investments as part of the £12 million programme include the £750,000 renovation at The Co-operative in New Bilton, Rugby, a £600,000 renovation of the Attleborough store in Nuneaton and a planned investment of £4.5 million in a new development in Hinckley which will incorporate a new additional Food store.

The society is also scheduled to open another two food stores by early next year.