Increased profits for Co-op

THE East of England Co-op, the region’s largest independent retailer, today reported a 4% increase in half-year profits.

The society, based at Wherstead Park, just outside Ipswich, achieved a trading profit of �7.5million for the 28 weeks to August 7.

Despite what the society termed “a challenging trading environment”, total sales also edged ahead, by 0.9%, to �193.1m.

The profit before dividends and taxation totalled �7.6m compared with a loss for the same period last year of �4.9m, when the figure included one-off charges relating to the society’s withdrawal from some businesses and an allowance for lower property values.

Chief executive Richard Samson said: “This is a very creditable result, whilst the society trades through difficult times. All the signs are that there will be no easing of the tough economic climate through the remainder of this year and probably throughout 2011.

“However, our strong financial position has enabled us to continue to invest from our own resources, with no net borrowings whatsoever and we are well placed for dealing with the uncertain period ahead of us.”

In recognition of the society’s continuing success and the commitment provided by its colleagues, the directors authorized payment of an employee bonus for the third successive year, amounting to �500,000, which was shared amongst nearly 3,000 qualifying employees.

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Mr Samson added: “Our development programme has included a number of major store refurbishments and the acquisition of an additional food store in Ipswich at Dales Road.

“In October, we commenced trading with a new retail venture based at Cox Lane, in the centre of Ipswich. In partnership with Simplyhealth this is our first ‘Easier Living Centre’, which provides a large range of mobility products for our customers and if successful we envisage opening further branches in suitable locations around the region.”

In Wimpole Road, Colchester, a new food store is under construction, which will include flats above. The store is expected to open for business next spring and other food store developments and new store openings are being actively pursued.

The Society’s Fronks Road, Dovercourt, Food Store, and the Halstead Supermarket both underwent major refurbishments, and improvements were also made to the Clacton Funeral Home.