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

• Food sales rise by 6.80 per cent on a like-for-like basis
• Society invests £5.1 million on new projects in 2018
• Retailer’s net worth increases by almost 13 per cent to more than £46.2 million
• Group turnover sees an increase of 3.45 per cent to £74.2 million.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Heart of England Co-operative Society has reported a rise in sales despite ‘one of the most challenging and difficult years in recent times’.

The Society, which operates a network of 32 Food stores and 13 Funeral homes in Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire – saw its net worth increase by 12.9 per cent to more than £46.2 million in the 52 weeks to January 19th 2019.

It also saw a 3.45 per cent rise in turnover over the same period, recording a figure of £74.2 million.

Despite the continued fierce market, with stiff competition against both multinationals and discounters, the Food Division put up a very strong performance and in fact was the second highest performing within the Co-operative movement.

Winter sales were helped by the extreme cold weather and the Beast from the East, while summer sales were given a boost by the hot weather and England’s success in reaching the World Cup semi-finals.

Recent investments in both the Barwell and Market Bosworth stores resulted in both performing above budget.

The Long Lawford and Meriden food stores also both recorded double digit sales increases. Long Lawford was rebuilt in early 2017 while Meriden was extended in the summer of that same year.

The strong performance has continued into 2019 with food sales up by almost 6% in week nine.

The Funeral Division recorded a minor decrease of 0.66 per cent in like-for-like sales over the same period. But this compared with exceptional performances the two previous years, as well as a general fall in the number of deaths regionally and nationally.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that in the first three months of this year alone the number of deaths had fallen by 11.3 per cent like-for-like, while the number of deaths in the West Midlands fell by 13.9 per cent.

The Society’s low-cost direct funerals, launched more than two years ago, have been well received by client families looking for a more affordable option.

And the refurbishments of both Ansty Road and Lower Holyhead Road funeral homes had each received positive feedback from client families.

In the Food division the sales of 5p carrier bags over the 52 weeks helped raise more than £54,000 which the Society distributed among various charities. The Society also presented a further £16,000 to Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice, the corporate charity for the past year, and for the next year going forward.

In his annual report Ali Kurji, Chief Executive, said the Society continues to operate in a the most ‘volatile and complex environment’ ever known with customers changing their shopping habits and with increasing competition from online shopping, as well as the multiples and discount stores.

He said: “Consumer confidence remains at an all-time low due to a great deal of uncertainty about the economy and the slow progress over Brexit negotiations.

“This has been further compounded by the recent increase in interest rates, which will inevitably add further pressures on retail prices.

“We face an extremely challenging and very uncertain 2019 and all the economic indicators are pointing towards a slowdown in the economy as it appears to be losing momentum amid Brexit concerns.”

Mr Kurji added: “Despite the challenges we had a satisfactory year . . . The policies put in place are being successfully implemented and will help to create a strong regional co-operative business which will withstand the economic challenges ahead.”

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