Central England Co-operative shows strong financial growth

Martyn Cheatle, chief executive of Central England Co-operative. Picture: Craig Holmes

Martyn Cheatle, chief executive of Central England Co-operative. Picture: Craig Holmes - Credit: Archant

One of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK, Central England Co-operative, has announced details of a strong financial performance and continued investment in the first half of 2018.

The Society’s sales grew by 3.6% to £476.9 million despite operating in a highly competitive and changing trading environment. Trading profit rose by £1m to £12.9m.

Central England Co-operative employs more than 8,000 staff and has more than 400 trading outlets across 16 counties, including Suffolk and Norfolk.

A spokesperson explained that Central England Co-op’s best performing sites were its food stores in Eye and Rickinghall, and its petrol station in Stowupland also performed well. “All three sites were revamped earlier this year, resulting in higher footfall and sales,” he added.

The ambitious growth strategy of the business is reflected in its investment of £12.4 million in the first half of the year, which included the opening of six new food stores, one new funeral home and two new funeral booking offices alongside the renovation of a further 32 other sites. This has seen the core food business and funeral arm of the Society grow significantly, with further new openings and refurbishments planned for the second half of the year and on into 2019.

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The company achieved gross sales of £476.9 million, a rise of 3.6 % on the previous year, with trading profit up £1m (8.4%) to £12.9m.

£2.3 million was distributed to members, colleagues and the community.

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Chief Executive Martyn Cheatle said: “We have had an encouraging first half of the year, reflecting the hard work of our colleagues and continued focus across the Society in providing great service and products to our members and customers.

“Our performance so far in 2018 has again demonstrated the Society’s resilience as a strong and successful independent co-operative business.

“However, our resilience continues to be tested by tough trading conditions which we expect to remain challenging and highly competitive for the foreseeable future.”

The food retail arm of the business enjoyed a good performance, with like-for-like sales in convenience stores outperforming the market, despite the harsh winter and exceptionally hot summer.

The Society’s funeral operations had a strong first half of 2018. The first six months of the year has also seen the opening of new sites and the continued effort to pioneer new ideas with the launch of convenient Funeral Booking Offices.

The Society’s 20 travel shops have enjoyed success in the niche holiday market. An expansion of the Travel business has also been announced, with the Society taking on six travel shops previously operated by Thomas Cook.

The company has more openings and refurbishments planned for the second half of the year and throughout 2019.

The Society has also reduced its carbon footprint by 48% and also announced the roll-out of a pioneering food redistribution project across all its Food Stores that will support over 250 local charities in partnership with FareShare East Midlands.

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