Profits and 'divi' rise at the Co-op

THE East of England Co-operative Society - the third largest independent consumer co-operative in the UK and the largest independent retailer in East Anglia - has announced increased annual profits.

MEMBERS of the East of England Co-op are in line for an increased “divi” payout after an 11.4% jump in the society's annual trading profit.

The earnings of £9.72 million for the year to January 26, 2008, were achieved on total group sales of £441 million - up 5.3% on the previous year, with the increase driven mainly by the society's core food retail business - while like-for-like sales were up 3% overall.

In view of the results, the directors recommended an increased total dividend to the society's 520,000-plus members of £4.28 million, which was approved at the annual meetings held this week in Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester.

Richard Samson, chief executive of the society - which ranks as the third largest independent consumer co-operative in the UK and the largest independent retailer in East Anglia - said: “This is an excellent result in what was undoubtedly a challenging year.

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“I am extremely pleased that we will be distributing more than £4 million in dividend to our members across the region, equating to 2.5% of qualifying purchases, compared with 2.1% last year.

“Once again we anticipate being one of the leading major UK consumer co-operatives in terms of the dividend level awarded to members, who are the ultimate owners of the society.

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“The society is financially sound and we are all working hard to build an even stronger platform for future profitable growth.”

Mr Samson added: “The support of our customers and members is much appreciated and I would like to commend the hard work and commitment of my colleagues throughout the society, which has greatly contributed to the society's continuing success.”

During 2007, the society invested more than £18million in store improvements and expansion but remained debt-free, funding the programme through retained profits.

The development programme included the acquisition of a regional chain of convenience food stores, together with an ongoing building, refurbishment and re-branding programme, which included the substantial refurbishment of the Co-op Supermarket on Mersea Island and the completion of a new £5 million supermarket and car park at Stanway, Colchester.

There were also major extensions to the society's supermarket at the Rosehill Centre, Ipswich; and the historic Dedham Food Store was sympathetically improved taking into account its Grade II* listing.

However, the year also saw the society decide to withdrew from milk distribution and production, with the distribution business being sold as a going concern to Dairy Crest in February 2008, with more than 300 society employees transferring under the TUPE employment transfer regulations.

n At the annual meeting on May 14, Andy Moore was elected to the society's board of directors while retiring directors Gillian Bober, Roger Smith and Ann White-Howles were all returned to office. John Booth has retired from the board after 25 years' service and the president and board of directors thanked him for his contribution during that time.

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