New Co-op stores will challenge supermarkets

Sheringham Co-op store.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY


The East of England Co-op hopes to boost revenues with new stores and a re-energised brand as it mounts a fight back against the major supermarkets.

Doug Field, executive officer - finance and technology, at the East of England Co-operative Society.

Doug Field, executive officer - finance and technology, at the East of England Co-operative Society. - Credit: Archant

Doug Field, executive officer for finance and technology, said it had closed its non-viable businesses to create future food stores in Norwich, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds in response to the wave of high street shops launched by Tesco and Sainsburys.

The move will be combined with a revamped look for the society to entice a 'new generation' to its 400,000-strong membership. In its annual results released yesterday, the group recorded a £335.1m turnover and an underlying trading profit of £9.7m – including £232.2m in members' funds.

And despite being hampered by a tough economic environment, all divisions saw growth, with its food stores recording a £1.8m increase in like-for-like sales and its forecourt business notching a 5.3pc rise in sales. The funeral and travel businesses made turnover increases of more than 10pc.

But the society's profits did take a hit from a write-down in property values and the restructure of its pension scheme.

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Yesterday, Mr Field said plans were being forged to establish a stronger online presence to meet a consumer appetite for internet shopping.

He said: 'Every penny of our turnover has been hard won during these tough times. Although we have seen a drop of £18.3m on last year, we only had 52 trading weeks, compared to 53 in the last financial year. On a comparable 52-week basis our turnover dropped by a modest 3.3 percent, and there has been success stories across a number of our trading businesses.

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'Overall we consider it to be a major achievement to have secured an underlying trading profit of £9.7m. Although this is down £3m from last year this has come as no surprise to us. We expected to see a reduction in profits during a year which has been tough for the entire retail industry.'

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