Midlands Co-operative Society’s business performance has produced a robust performance in the first half of 2012, in spite of the lengthy economic downturn.
The Society has announced increased sales and trading profit in continuing businesses in the 28 weeks ended 11 August 2012, demonstrating that its business strategy is effectively meeting the demanding conditions.
- Gross sales in continuing businesses up 5% to £357.9m (excluding VAT)
- Increase in trading profit in continuing businesses to £16.3m (2011: £16.2m)
- 4 new stores opened plus 3 new funeral homes
- Strong pipeline of development sites
- Significant refurbishment activity across the business
The Society’s Retail food stores achieved increased sales and profitability in intensely competitive conditions and in spite of the wettest summer for 100 years. Continued focus on maintaining high operational standards and customer service helped deliver consistently strong growth across convenience stores. For the second year running the Society’s Retail team were recognised at high profile national industry awards, picking up ‘Best Chilled and Fresh Retailer’ and ‘Best Top Up Mission Retailer’ at the Convenience Tracking Programme Awards in May, as well as reaching the finals of the prestigious Grocer Gold Awards for Employer of the Year.
The Society’s growth strategy continues with four new food stores opened in the first half and several more new openings scheduled before the end of the year. Investment in the existing estate has also resulted in increased sales with a further 18 refurbishments completed, at the same time as maintaining the high operational standards throughout the food store operation.
Continued pressure on consumer spending and growth of online shopping together with the poor summer created extremely challenging conditions for the Society’s Fashion & Home stores. The business responded with aggressive promotional activity, and robust cost controls. In addition, the introduction of new brands and ranges generated increased sales in fashion categories.
The Funeral business produced a solid performance in the first half of the year with all areas of the business – funeral homes, masonry, coffin manufacture and crematorium trading well. The Society opened a new funeral home in Dronfield Woodhouse, Derbyshire and an acquisition in Leicestershire added a further two funeral homes to the Society’s portfolio. Investment in the existing estate continued with nine re-brands, bringing the total number of funeral homes trading as ‘The Co-operative Funeralcare’ to 45. The Society also introduced a new brand with the Society’s floristry shop in Leicester becoming the first in the UK to sport the distinctive pink and black livery of ‘The Co-operative Florist’. The Society’s Burton florist has subsequently been rebranded and more conversions are planned for the second half of the year.
The Society’s Transport business saw a improvement in sales and profitability in spite of subdued trading conditions in the sector. Growth of the Citroen and Mazda franchises and the introduction of the Chrysler and Jeep brands helped to drive growth at the Society’s re-branded Lincoln dealership. The Society’s specialist vehicle construction business, Leicester Carriage Builders, consolidated its position as one of the UK’s leading specialist armoured vehicle producers by securing a sizeable four year contract with a large UK based organisation.
The Society remains in a very strong financial position to trade and grow through the current difficult market conditions, with a clear strategy in place and substantial funds available for further development in the future.
Through the Making a Difference Community Dividend fund, the Society will distribute £266,000 to community groups across the Midlands during 2012, bringing the total amount granted since the scheme began to £1.7 million.
Chief Executive, Martyn Cheatle, commented: “Times remain difficult for customers and businesses alike but Midlands Co-operative has proved its ability to meet these challenges head on. This hasn’t been achieved at the expense of our ethical principles and it is particularly pleasing to know that, at a time when many are feeling the pressure, our members, employees and communities all share in the Society’s success through our ‘share of the profits’ dividend payments. We continue to invest for the future and, although forecasts indicate a slow and gradual improvement in the economy, the Society is in a strong position to be able to continue further business development and growth in the future.”