East Anglia: East of England Co-operative Society reports better than expected profit

Doug Field of the East of England Co-op

Doug Field of the East of England Co-op - Credit: Archant

THE East of England Co-operative Society today reported a better than expected annual profit after a year of tough trading conditions.

The member-owned Society, which has more than 200 trading outlets across Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk, reported turnover £335.1million for 2013 and an underlying trading profit of £9.7m, representing a fall of around £3m which it said was less than expected.

Doug Field, executive officer – finance and technology, said: “Every sale and penny of our turnover has been hard won during these tough times.

“Although we have seen a drop of £18.3m on last year, we only had 52 trading weeks, compared to 53 in the last financial year.

“On a comparable 52-week basis our turnover dropped by a modest 3.3%, and there has been success stories across a number of our trading businesses.”

Despite a tough economic environment the society’s food division recorded a significant £1.8m like-for-like sales increase while its forecourt business saw with a 5.3% rise in sales. Both the funeral and travel businesses also achieved 10%-plus increases in turnover.

Mr Field added: “Overall we consider it to be a major achievement to have secured an underlying trading profit of £9.7m. Although this is down £3m from last year this has come as no surprise to us.

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“We expected to see a reduction in profits during a year which has been tough for the entire retail industry and its consumers. We have remained true to our co-operative values and continued to support our members and customers by not passing on the increased distribution and commodity costs we have incurred.”

The society said it remained committed to its long-term strategy to grow into a £450m turnover business returning more than £5m to its members and communities.

Its annual general meeting approved a payout to members of £3.3m, with dividend cheques due to arrive shortly.

Members attending the AGM were also given first glimpse of a new-look created for the society which will be rolled out during 2013. In line with its continued growth plans a new brand has been designed to entice a new generation of “co-operators”, encourage loyalty and distinguish the business from large retail chains.

The AGM also included a members’ vote for the election of board directors. This year saw 11 candidates standing for five available places which were won by new director Beverley Perkins and four re-elected directors, Colin Barrett, Chris Newbury, John Pendle and Sally Chicken.

The complete Annual Report, featuring the new branding, is available on the East of England Co-operative Society website www.eastofengland.coop .