Healthy growth in sales and profit for East of England Co-op

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The East of England Co-op’s strategy to invest in their business, people and properties for long-term prosperity, has come to fruition with healthy growth in both sales and profits despite challenging competition.

The member-owned retailer, which has over 230 trading outlets across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and now Cambridgeshire, has announced its annual results for 2016/17 which show sales and trading profit growth.  Turnover increased by 2.7%, whilst underlying trading profit increased by 17.0% to £4.4million from £3.8million the previous year. Profit before tax and distributions are down from £7.8million to £6.1million and Members’ fund decreased by £25.6million over the year to £207.5million.

Doug Field, Joint Chief Executive for the East of England Co-op, said: “We are delighted with our sales growth especially in our food business which saw a 2.3% like-for like increase. This has been driven by a number of changes, including improved operational standards, employee engagement, store refurbishments and investment in technology.

“During 2016/17 we refurbished a further 38 food stores across the region, as well as opening our flagship new generation store in Woodbridge, Suffolk.

“With the growth of our Funeral Services business, we expanded into Cambridgeshire for the first time with the opening of our new funeral branch in Ely. This was a strategic decision having identified parts of the county as key opportunities to grow our Funeral Services business. During 2016/17 we opened seven new funeral branches across the region with further branches set to open in 2017.”

Thanks to new tenants and general market conditions, there was a rise in the East of England Co-op’s property portfolio revenue of 3.4% (£1.6m), taking the rental income over £7.3million.

Doug continued: “On a comparable 52-week basis our four forecourts saw a sales growth of 6.2%, selling an additional 1.4million litres of fuel. Our Security business, Secure Response Services, continues to experience significant growth, with sales more than doubling this year.”

Despite lower margins, the East of England Co-op’s food, distribution, travel, forecourts, optical and property businesses all saw an increase in trading profits. This was achieved through a combination of sales increases, efficiencies and cost control. As expected, profits from their funeral services business decreased, due to investment in new branches and a decrease in sales.

Sourced Locally, the East of England Co-op’s multi-award winning initiative, is celebrating its ten-year anniversary. It has seen continued success with a further 4.1% increase in yearly sales to £17.5million. Since Sourced Locally began in 2007, over £57million has been ploughed back into the local economy.

Doug Field concluded: “We are a people business and these results are testament to the true co-operative spirit and dedication of our 4,300 colleagues. Thanks to their hard work, key investments and improvement in our standards across the board, we are reaping the awards with growth in both sales and trading profits.

“Looking ahead, we remain focussed on the three cornerstones of our business; continuing our successful food strategy with plans to revitalise over 30 more stores this coming year, continuing the expansion of our funeral services and investing in our property estate

“There will be inevitable new challenges ahead, but with our strategy firmly focused on future-proofing our business, we can, and will, continue to thrive.”

A full breakdown of the East of England Co-operative’s audited figures is now available online here.