Sales up by £7.7m but slight fall in trading profit at Central England Co-op

The society’s interim report includes capital investment and new store openings in a tough retail environment

In its half year results to 10 August 2019, Central England Co-op hailed an increase of sales by £7.7m to £484.6m, aided by new store openings and an expanded Travel Shop network.

Trading profit was £11.4m, down from £12.9m the previous year, but the chief executive Debbie Robinson said this was “in line with budget and
reflects a steady performance for the society in the face of a highly competitive retail environment and uncertain economic backdrop”.

Debbie Robinson
Society CEO Debbie Robinson

Investment over the period saw the opening of four new food stores and one funeral booking office, alongside the refurbishment of nine other sites. Further investment in new sites and refits is planned for the second half of the year and on into 2020.

Capital expenditure over the period totalled £10.7m, with the society enjoying strong cash generation of £25.3m.

The society’s ethos as a member-owned community retail was reflected by 60 groups and good causes sharing £90,000 as part of its Community Dividend Fund and £2.3m being distributed to members, colleagues and the wider community.

And the co-op pioneered a scheme to redistribute food to local causes, as it linked up with FareShare East Midlands to donate the equivalent of over 1.6 million meals to people in need.

The rollout of a raft of new security measures in food stores has seen burglaries drop by 6% and robberies drop by 30%.

The retailer confirmed it has plans in place to attempt to mitigate any potential impact on customers and members as a result of Brexit.

Ms Robinson added: “In difficult times, I believe our co-operative difference will set us apart and see us thrive while others may flounder.

“Together we will grow and prosper by embracing our values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.”

Society president Elaine Dean said: “So far this year we have seen the arrival of our new Chief Executive, Debbie Robinson, following the retirement of her predecessor, Martyn Cheatle.

“Debbie joined us in March and really hit the ground running from day one – you may already have spotted the many changes taking place as Debbie drives us forward as a community retailer.

“Despite facing difficult trading conditions, our society is holding its own in a competitive and challenging market.

“The board has commenced a detailed review of our strategy with the aim of confirming our ambition to be the best UK co-operative and to be a leader in the movement when it comes to good practice.”

Central England Co-operative will report on its full year performance at the end of January 2020.