A boom year for the Co-op; PROFITS: Midlands' biggest retailer defies high street downturn.
MIDLANDS Co-op - the region's biggest retailer - defied the High Street downturn to chalk up a 2.8 per cent increase in sales to pounds 680 million.
The Lichfield-based group said all core businesses - retail, travel, funeral and property - had contributed to the growth for the 53 weeks to January 28. The Cop-op said: "Whilst this financial year saw the first real impact of the national slowdown in consumer spending and confidence, the society's strategy of long-term investment in shops, services, people and systems has paid off by delaying some of the impact already experienced by others."
Gross sales (excluding VAT) from continuing operations increased by pounds 19 million to pounds 680 million while profit before distribution to stakeholders and tax was up by 44 per cent to pounds 24.7 million.
Meanwhile, over pounds 21 million of capital investment was undertaken while net assets were up to pounds 208 million, an all-time high.
The society added: "The trading results reflect the impact of the disposal of the society's dairy business in May, putting it into an even stronger position to focus on its growth ambitions in its core businesses. In the past 12 months over pounds 21 million has been invested in growth including two new stores in Brandhall in Birmingham and Kibworth Beauchamp in Leicestershire, and a Travel Shop in Anstey, Leicestershire. "Underlying trading profit was pounds 3 million lower at pounds 10.6 million, highlighting the effect of rising oil costs including energy and fuel, which are being absorbed by retailers. Profit before tax was up 50 per cent to pounds 22 million."
John Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of the Society, warned that the next twelve months were likely to be extremely tough.
"Despite trading challenges, the society is in a very strong financial position, generating strong cash flows from operating activities, with a robust balance sheet and an undemanding level of borrowings," he added.