Sales grow for Central England Co-op ahead of crisis

Sales were up 2.7 per cent to £893 million for Central England Co-operative Society for its latest financial year.

Chief executive Debbie Robinson
Chief executive Debbie Robinson

It covers the year to January 25 ahead of the coronavirus pandemic hitting the UK.

The Lichfield-headquartered society, which operates more than 400 food, funeral, floral and travel sites across 16 counties, achieved a trading profit of £17.5m, which was ahead of budget

Operating profit jumped from £11.9m to £15.5m and capital expenditure of £22.1m saw 10 new food stores, 18 refurbishments and two new funeral sites open during the year.

Members, colleagues and communities benefited from the success of the society’s performance by sharing in a £3.2m dividend pay-out

The society's community dividend fund saw 115 good causes and charities share £180,000, 275,000 items were donated to local food banks and its first Christmas Toybox Appeal resulted in 12,000 presents and stocking fillers being shared out between 20 local organisations.

Also the £1.3m fundraising milestone was reached for corporate charity partner Dementia UK since the partnership began in 2017.

Other achievements included campaigning for an end of violence and aggression towards colleagues and its pioneering food redistribution project with FareShare Midlands ensuring millions of items of unsold food does not go to waste

Chief executive Debbie Robinson said: “The first half of the year was steady with an uncertain economic environment due to Brexit, a Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the funeral market and a Financial Conduct Authority review of the sale of pre-paid funeral plans.

“Global, social and economic challenges including climate change and terrorism, along with a continually competitive market, continued to impact all of our businesses.

“The second half of the year saw significant improvement particularly in our food business and this strong trading saw the Society outperform sales in the overall convenience market.

“Over the coming year we will continue to invest in new stores together with a major refurbishment programme aimed at improving our best-performing existing stores.”

Central England Co-op has also revealed the impact that the coronavirus outbreak has had on the business.

The retailer has had to make major changes across its families of businesses including implementing social distancing and hygiene measures to keep colleagues and customers safe including installing 1,000 plastic screens and providing 7,000 face visors, as well as making major changes to the way it delivers funerals.

It has recruited more than 1,000 extra colleagues to help in stores, including support from across its other businesses in travel, floral and head office, and employed an extra 150 security guards,

All of the society’s 394 food stores, petrol stations and funeral homes remained open throughout the pandemic.

Mrs Robinson said: “Our frontline colleagues have shown outstanding commitment and resilience in helping communities access food and vital essentials and supporting those who have lost a loved one during this global pandemic.

“Our priority has been to protect our colleagues, Members and customers and to provide vital support when they need it most.

“We have also supported our communities in the most meaningful ways possible.

“By coming together and showing each other care, compassion and respect our communities and our society will emerge stronger out of these uncertain times.”

Elaine Dean, society president, said: “The board is acutely aware of the uncertain times we will face as a result of the impact of coronavirus.

“At the same time we are always determined to demonstrate our unique co-operative difference for our members and communities.

“We firmly believe that the current environment has clearly shown that the values and principles of co-operation are as relevant today as they have ever been.”

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News