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Year of strong growth for the East of England Co-op

PUBLISHED: 18:48 23 May 2017

The East of England Co-op's

The East of England Co-op's "new generation" supermarket in Woodbridge

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The East of England Co-op, the region’s largest independent retailer, has consolidated its status as a Top 100 company by posting revenue of £347.709m for the year to January 28, 2017, an increase 2.7% on the previous 12 months.

The East of England has reported further sales growth for its Sourced Locally range The East of England has reported further sales growth for its Sourced Locally range

The East of England Co-op is the region’s largest independent retailer and a fixture in the Top 100 list.

Revenue growth of 2.7% in the 12 months to January 28, to £347.7m, saw the co-operative consolidate its position.

Food sales grew by 2.3% on a like-for-like basis, despite the ongoing price war in the supermarket sector, which the society has attributed to factors including investment in its stores and in new technology.

BROWSE: Explore the 2017 Top 100 table and map

East of England Co-op joint chief executive Doug Field East of England Co-op joint chief executive Doug Field

During the year, the society refurbished a further 33 stores as part of an ongoing investment programme and also opened a flagship “new generation” store in Woodbridge, which will be a model for more to follow.

“People like to shop in a nice environment,” said Doug Field, joint chief executive at the East of England Co-op. “The analogy we use is that if a customer gets to the end of the road and our store is on the right and a competitor’s store is on the left, we want them to always turn right.

“It’s a combination of having a nice store, the right products always available and friendly staff. We have worked hard to get this combination right. We may not always get it right, we acknowledge that, but we are working hard at it.

“The technology that has had the biggest impact this year is a new stock system that automatically replenishes products when they are required so there are fewer spaces on the shelves and more availability for customers.”

Sourced Locally, the society’s award-winning local and regional food initiative which is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, saw continued success last year, with a further 4.1% increase in sales.

“People have an affinity with local goods and services and are interested in the provenance of food,” said Mr Field. “We work now with over 100 producers who supply us with more than 3,000 different products.

“In the 10 years we’ve been running the Sourced Locally initiative we have ploughed over £57m into the local economy and this part of the business now turns over 17.5m, which is a fantastic achievement.”

Overall trading profit at the East of England Co-op grew by 8.8%, to £4.434m to from £4.074m, representing underlying growth of 17.1%, which the society said reflected a combination of sales increases, efficiencies and cost control.

Mr Field added: “We are delighted with these figures in what is a difficult and competitive market. Our sales growth over the past 12 weeks is second only to Aldi and Lidl and has outstripped the likes of Tesco and Morrisons.

“Historically, we relied on member loyalty and didn’t respond quickly enough to changing shopping habits. But investment in our stores, and the hard work of our people is making a difference. We are also getting better about promoting our positive impact on the community.”

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