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East Anglia: East of England Co-op hails return to annual growth in sales

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 April 2014 | UPDATED: 10:21 15 April 2014

Doug Field, executive officer – finance and technology at the East of England Co-operative Society.

Doug Field, executive officer – finance and technology at the East of England Co-operative Society.

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The East of England Co-operative Society has overcome “tough competition” to report a rise in pre-tax profits and its first increase in turnover for six years.

The member-owned society, which has more than 250 trading outlets across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, generated total sales of £342million during its 2013-14 financial year, up 2% on the previous 12 months, with pre-tax profits rising by 17%, to £6.7m.

Underlying trading profit fell to £5.4m, from £9.7m the previous year, but the society said this reflected a significant decrease in dividend payments from the troubled Co-operative Group, alongside increased pension costs and the impact of “predatory” competition in the grocery market.

Doug Field, executive officer finance and technology at the East of England Co-op, said: “In a year where we have faced tough competition, negative media coverage of the wider co-operative movement and reduced NHS funding for our pharmacies, we have managed to increase our turnover for the first time in six years.

“We consider it to be a major achievement to have secured this increase in pre-tax profits during a year of continuing austerity in the sector.”

Mr Field said that the overall increase in turnover had been achieved despite a 0.5% decline in sales from the society’s food stores, amid price-cutting by competitors.

The society’s petrol forecourts, funeral and travel businesses, together with its distribution centre, had all seen increases in business and it had also been a good year for its investment property portfolio which saw increases in turnover and profit as well as a £6m investment in new properties.

“Being an ethical retailer in the grocery sector is tough. Since 2007 we have been building up our range of locally sourced products which consumers love. This year Sourced Locally enjoyed a £12m turnover which represented a 30% increase in this area, so this is an area we will continue to grow,” he added.

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