Midlands Co-op reports strong performance in the first half of 2013

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Midlands Co-operative Society’s strong business performance continued in the first half of 2013, underlining its position as one of the most profitable independent UK retail co-operatives, it has said this week.

The society, which has a store in Strutt Street, Belper, has announced increased sales in continuing businesses in the 28 weeks ended 10 August 2013 and its consistently robust results are one of the key factors which led to the Society being named UK Co-operative of the Year in June this year.

Gross sales (excluding VAT) were up 8% to £386.7m, trading profit in continuing businesses was £13.6m (2012: £16.3m), capital expenditure was £24m, it opened five new food stores opened, plus two new funeral homes and had a “strong pipeline of development sites”.

Retail food stores achieved increased sales of 9.2% against a backdrop of difficult economic conditions.

The society continues to focus on maintaining high operational standards and customer service and this was once again recognised with the society’’s retail team picking up a series of industry awards, said a spokesman.

The team won three awards at the 2013 Convenience Tracking Programme Awards; ‘Best Top-up Retailer’, ‘Best Beer, Wine and Spirits Retailer’ and ‘Best Overall Convenience Retailer’. This marks the third year running that the Society has been recognised at the awards.

A focus on petrol filling stations during the period resulted in the introduction of a new fuel supplier, Co-operative branding across all of the society’s petrol filling stations and the launch of membership points on members’ fuel purchases. The society also rolled out new product ranges in bakery, fresh meat and fish categories, on the back of Co-operative Group’s Loved by Us product launch.

The society’s growth strategy continues with four new food stores opened in the first half in Chasetown, Staffordshire, Hallwood Road, Kettering and Thringstone, Wigston. The society also acquired a fuel station and convenience store business in Wirksworth, Derbyshire and pushed the boundaries of its trading area with a new food store in Shepley, West Yorkshire, following a transfer of engagements to Midlands from Shepley Industrial and Provident Society. Investment in the existing estate continues to generate encouraging sales growth and a further 11 major store refurbishments were completed during the period.

The funeral business produced a very strong performance in the first half of the year with all areas of the business - funeral homes, masonry, coffin manufacture and crematorium trading well, he said.

The society opened new funeral homes in Acocks Green, Birmingham and Wigston in Leicestershire as well as opening a new funeral service for the Islamic community in and around Birmingham.

There was an increase of 4.7% in funerals conducted compared to the same period in the previous year. Investment in the existing estate continued with eight funeral homes being re-branded/refurbished as well as The Co-operative brand being extended to a number of the society’’s masonry and floristry sites.

Substantial investment was also made in the society’’s funeral fleet with 18 new vehicles purchased during the period. It’s transport business continued to see improvements in sales and profitability reflecting recovering market conditions and increased consumer demand. All of the Society’s dealership saw an increase in sales volumes. The Society’s specialist vehicle construction business, Leicester Carriage Builders, achieved significant reductions in end-to-end production timescales, following the launch of a continuous improvement and transformation programme last year. The Board approved plans to relocate the business to an improved facility in Leicester which will see significant investment in the business and enable the business to reach its full growth potential.

He said: “Midland Co-operative’s strong financial performance, clear strategy and capital investment programme received endorsement from the co-operative movement’s national trade association in June when it named the Society UK Co-operative of the year.

“Through the Making a Difference Community Dividend fund, the society will distribute £254,000 to community groups across the Midlands during 2013, bringing the total amount granted since the scheme began to £1.9 million.”

Chief executive, Martyn Cheatle, said: “”In spite of the difficult economic conditions faced over recent years, Midlands Co-operative has flourished. We’ve already achieved many of the objectives set out in the five year strategic vision launched in 2011 and being named UK Co-operative of the Year this year highlights both our business successes and our co-operative achievements. Looking ahead the Society is in a really strong position to be able to continue further business development and growth.”