Profit and sales are up at Central England Co-op, according to its annual results.
Gross sales grew by 2.7% to £893 million, while the retailer posted a trading profit of £17.5 million, which was ahead of budget. Operating profit meanwhile jumped from £11.9m to £15.5m.
The firm, which operates food, funeral, floral and travel sites, opened 10 new stores, two new funeral sites and undertook 18 refurbishments during the past 12 months, spending £22.1 million.
Milestones in the year included the rollout of a new community store format with features including free water refills, indoor and outdoor seating and even specialist dog stops and the reduction of its carbon footprint to 61%.
Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-op Chief Executive, said: “The first half of the year was steady with an uncertain economic environment due to Brexit, a Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the funeral market and a Financial Conduct Authority review of the sale of pre-paid funeral plans.
“Global, social and economic challenges including climate change and terrorism, along with a continually competitive market, continued to impact all of our businesses.
“The second half of the year saw significant improvement particularly in our food business and this strong trading saw the Society outperform sales in the overall convenience market.
“Over the coming year we will continue to invest in new stores together with a major refurbishment programme aimed at improving our best-performing existing stores.”
The retailer has had to make major changes across its businesses in response to the impact of the Coronavirus. This has included implementing social distancing and hygiene measures to keep colleagues and customers safe including installing 1,000 plastic screens and providing 7,000 face visors, as well as making major changes to the way it delivers funerals.
In addition 1,000 extra staff members have been recruited to help in stores.
Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-op Chief Executive, said: “Our frontline colleagues have shown outstanding commitment and resilience in helping communities access food and vital essentials and supporting those who have lost a loved one during this global pandemic.
“Our priority has been to protect our colleagues, Members and customers and to provide vital support when they need it most. We have also supported our communities in the most meaningful ways possible.
“By coming together and showing each other care, compassion and respect our communities and our Society will emerge stronger out of these uncertain times.”
Elaine Dean, Society President, said: “The Board is acutely aware of the uncertain times we will face as a result of the impact of Coronavirus.
“At the same time we are always determined to demonstrate our unique co-operative difference for our Members and communities.
“We firmly believe that the current environment has clearly shown that the values and principles of co-operation are as relevant today as they have ever been.”