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Progress for Co-op in a tough year

PUBLISHED: 10:34 19 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:56 03 July 2010

The East of England Co-op yesterday announced a rise in underlying profits of more than 10pc to £11.4m despite an “exceptionally difficult” year.

The business, which is the largest independent retailer in East Anglia, recorded much of its growth in its food sales division, with sales up 5.

The East of England Co-op yesterday announced a rise in underlying profits of more than 10pc to £11.4m despite an “exceptionally difficult” year.

The business, which is the largest independent retailer in East Anglia, recorded much of its growth in its food sales division, with sales up 5.7pc on a like-for-like basis in the year to January 24.

Across the society, which is the third-largest independent consumer co-operative in the country with more than half a million members, like-for-like turnover was up by 3.2pc.

The society also announced a dividend of £4.2m, which equates to 2.5p in the pound on qualifying purchases, and a payout of £813,000 to more than 3,000 staff through its employee dividend scheme.

“Last year was an exceptionally difficult year which took its toll on many of our competitors, and trading has been challenging in several of our own businesses,” said chief executive Richard Samson.

“In spite of this, we have been able to show an overall increase in underlying trading profit of more than £1m to £11.4m.

“The rollout of the East of England brand identity to food stores and supermarkets, plus store refurbishments and competitive pricing, have met with considerable success. Our refurbished stores have recorded significantly increased sales and our customers clearly value the service and convenience these local stores offer.”

Mr Samson also highlighted the Co-op's ongoing investment programme, which saw it spend £27.7m last year. The investment is entirely self-funded, with the society continuing its modernisation programme without the need for borrowing.

The Co-op has more than 200 outlets in the food, jewellery, travel, pharmacy and optical sectors. It also has a funeral service and runs petrol forecourts and motor dealerships.

However, last month the society announced it was selling four of its department stores, including those in Norwich and Yarmouth. Mr Samson said they had underperformed and had failed to make a profit.

“We don't wish to let our customers down but sadly these stores are no longer viable in their present formats,” he said at the time.

The Co-op said yesterday that there had been a strong start to the current year, with the food retail division seeing a 5pc increase in sales compared with the first quarter of last year.


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