Ali Kurji, Chief Executive of the Heart of England Co-operative Society

Monday, May 10th, 2021

The Heart of England Co-operative Society has reported a satisfactory year of trading despite an extra ordinary and challenging marketplace in 2020.

The Society, which operates a network of 35 Food stores and 15 Funeral homes, invested £4.3 million in new projects during the course of a year in which the UK continued to trade in deep economic uncertainty, with Brexit and the unprecedented event of the coronavirus.

Turnover for the year ending January 16th reached an all-time high of £92.1 million, reflecting an increase of 19.8 per cent on the previous 12 months. Operating profits over the same period rose by more than 22 per cent.

Food sales recorded an increase of 18.3 per cent over the year.

Mid-March saw the start of panic buying across the country – first affecting the supermarkets, then switching to convenience operators as the supermarkets ran out of stock.

To help steer its communities safely through the pandemic the Society implemented sales restrictions on high-demand items such as toilet rolls and hand sanitisers, ensuring there was enough for all.

The Society also invested heavily in PPE and implemented a series of restrictions such as social distancing to give colleagues and shoppers peace of mind during the pandemic.

In addition, the Society launched a home delivery service through a new partnership with Snappy Shopper, giving customers the option to shop from home.

Despite the fierce competition across the trading region the Society still managed to increase its margins compared to last year.

The retailer invested in major refurbishments in both Norman Place Road and Earlsdon in Coventry, which are both recording sales above budget.

A further eight stores received mini refits and are each recording satisfactory sales increases.

The Food Division is set to open a further two Food stores this year.

The Funeral Division also reported a sales increase of 3.82 per cent and an 11.15 per cent increase in the number of funerals on last year.

The event of the pandemic meant colleagues in the Funeral Division were conducting greater volumes of services than ever, working tirelessly around the clock to ensure the quality of service to client families was maintained even if they were unable to receive the service they would have wanted for their loved ones.

Due to the restrictions affecting funerals the average selling price fell and the Funeral Division’s overall contribution was down 3.2 per cent like-for-like. But by regularly reviewing its internal systems and service offering to clients the Society maintained its exemplary levels of customer satisfaction which stands at five stars among more than 1,000 customer reviews.

Pre-paid plans fell by more than a third (35.96 per cent) – in line with the market trend – as the pandemic created uncertainty on personal finances.

Investments during the course of the year include a new funeral home in Southam and the extension and refurbishment of the funeral home in Daventry.

The Society continues to invest in training its Funeral staff to the highest standard and has recruited a Professional Development Manager to enable every colleague to reach their full potential.

Other investments over the past year include three new ambulances.

Society membership now stands at 162,500 and the Member’s Rewards Card, which offers a two per cent discount on Food purchases, has been well received with £381,000 of rewards earned by members over the year, more than double the £189,000 the previous year.

Ali Kurji, Chief Executive of the Heart of England Co-operative Society, said: “Covid19 has had and is continuing to have a material impact on the Society’s business operations and we are managing through the coronavirus pandemic in a measured and controlled way whilst recognising the opportunities to modernise the Society for the future.

“The Society has a long and proud heritage. We are determined that the Society will emerge from the current crisis as a stronger co-operative business that has positively demonstrated our point of difference across the communities in which we trade.”

Back to newsline