// Central England Co-op provides coronavirus update as it publishes its annual results
// Operating profit jumped from £11.9m to £15.5m on the back of 2.7% sales growth to £893m
// Members, staff and communities benefited by sharing in a £3.2m dividend pay-out
Central England Co-op has posted an increase in sales and profits in its full year trading update, which also details some of the grocer’s updates around the coronavirus pandemic.
For the year ending January 25 – before the pandemic escalated into a global crisis – Central England Co-op saw year-on-year operating profit jump from £11.9 million to £15.5 million.
Full-year goss sales also grew 2.7 per cent year-on-year to £893 million, with trading profit of £17.5 million which was ahead of budget and against a backdrop of a “competitive and uncertain retail sector”.
Meanwhile, capital expenditure of £22.1 million saw 10 new food stores, 18 refurbishments and two new funeral sites open during the past 12 months.
The business, which operates as under a co-operative model, said its members, staff and communities benefited from the performance by sharing in a £3.2 million dividend pay-out.
Central England Co-op said that since the start of the lockdown, it has kept its 394 food stores, petrol stations and funeral homes open as they were classed as essential.
The retailer also said it had to “make major changes” across premises in response to the impact of the coronavirus.
This included implementing social distancing and hygiene measures to keep staff and customers safe, installing 1000 plastic screens and providing 7000 face visors and recruiting over 1000 extra staff to help in stores and cope with demand.
Central England Co-op also launched an online community hub to communicate to customers and members about vital messages, offered a 10 per cent discount and priority access for NHS staff, and rewarded staff for their hard work during the pandemic with an extra week’s pay.
The retailer added that it has been working with local councils to get food to the most vulnerable, donating over 60,000 items to food banks and supporting long-term partners Dementia UK and FareShare with significant donations.
“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,” Central England Co-op chief executive Debbie Robinson said.
“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.”
She added: “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 is independent from the larger Co-op Group, and trades from over 400 grocery, funeral, travel and floral outlets across 16 counties.