Heart of England Co-operative Society maintains healthy financial position despite tough climate


Thursday, May 25, 2017

  • Society reports gross sales of more than £75.7 million
  • £16.5 million decrease on like-for-like sales due to the closure of the loss-making Non Food Division
  • Operating Profit of £1.7m
  • Net worth now stands at £36 million
  • £10.4 million cash reserves

In a year which saw the Heart of England Co-operative Society close the remainder of its Non-Food stores, the retailer has not only managed to maintain the majority of its net worth but also still boasts a healthy bank balance.

The Society, which operates its Food and Funeral Divisions across Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, recorded gross sales of £75.7 million which is a decrease on the previous year (£92.2 million). This is a direct result of the closure of the Non-Food stores.

Its net worth now stands at £36 million – just £1.6 million down from the previous 12 months.

Its bank balance stands at £10.4 million.

The news comes on the back of a year in which the Society announced its loss-making Non-Food Division would cease to trade, in order to ensure the future sustainability of the business as a whole.

Both the Food Division and the Funeral Division recorded increases in sales of 0.15 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively on last year.

Food sales showed the modest increase in the 52-week period to January 21st against a fiercely competitive market which continues to see changing shopping habits.

The year began with the opening of a new food store in the Wyken area of Coventry after the Society converted The Grange pub in Alfall Road. Since its opening the store has performed ahead of budget.

More recently the Society opened a new purpose built food store on its existing site in Long Lawford. With the new facility built around the old store, it is larger, more modern and vastly improved. In order to maintain its service to customers the Society kept trading throughout the project.

Its stores at Warwick Gates and Stoney Stanton have also both undergone a mini refit in the past 12 months and both have since recorded double digit sales increases.

The Society is now focusing on continuing its programme of investment to ensure it provides its members with the best possible offering. Plans are also in place to expand its portfolio of food stores and is progressing with two more potential developments within the trading area.

Across all food stores the Society continues to review and improve its product range – in particular its fresh food range which continues to see an increase in sales.

The Funeral Division, which operates a network of 13 funeral homes under The Co-operative Funeralcare brand, also reported its 5.2 per cent increase over the same period – despite a fall in the death rate both regionally and nationally.

Over the year the Society serviced more than 2,300 families, reflecting its busiest year since 1999.

Its client surveys reflected a high standard of service – with a high percentage of client families stating they would use the Society again or would recommend to family and friends.

Its funeral home in Royal Leamington Spa was relocated to a prime spot at the top of The Parade as part of a £1.5 million project.

Its other new developments – Kenpas Highway in Coventry and Warwick Road in Kenilworth – also continue to perform to a satisfactory standard.

A new low cost ‘non-attended funerals’ service across all funeral homes, offering the most cost effective option for families with limited budgets or for people with no relatives, has also been well received.

In his annual report Ali Kurji, Chief Executive of the Society, said increasing sales levels whilst controlling costs remained the best way to achieve consistent growth in profits and ensure long-term success of the Society.

He added: “We intend to continue with our strategy of renewing and expanding our business and the cash reserves we have built up will enable us to continue to do this without the need for any external financial assistance in the short-term.

“In spite of these pressures we intend to maintain our unique position in the heart of England by building on our reputation as one of the UK’s leading retail co-operatives by continuing to develop profitable trading activities, and maintain community friendly initiatives and policies for the benefit of our members.

“Amidst an uncertain economic outlook, we remain optimistic about our Society’s future prospects as one of the leading independent regional co-operative societies.”

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