The Midcounties Co-operative, the UK’s largest independent co-operative society, achieved a record 24% increase in gross sales to £1.17bn (2012/13: £943m) in the year ended 25 January 2014.
Operating profit before significant items was up 21% at £22m (2012/13: £18.2m).
As a result, the Warwickshire-headquartered society has announced plans to make over £6m in share-of-profit payments to its members and colleagues.
Ben Reid, chief executive of The Midcounties Co-operative, said: “These excellent trading results demonstrate that the Co-operative business model really works. As part of our co-operative approach we will be returning a share of our profits to the members and colleagues who have directly contributed to the success of the Society.”
The Midcounties Co-operative is the first independent co-operative to achieve annual sales in excess of £1bn. The Society achieved sales growth across all of its businesses, which include food, energy, funeral, pharmacy, travel and childcare, during a year of restrained consumer spending and fierce high street and online competition.
Co-operative Energy signed up over 70,000 new customers during the year. It now serves over 200,000 households and delivered a 243% increase in sales to £159m during the year, making it the Society’s fastest-growing trading group.
Co-operative Travel grew sales by 61% to £276m following new branch acquisitions and increased recruitment of home-based personal travel advisors.
The Society’s food business grew sales by 1.1% to £603m. During the year it upgraded its in-store systems to improve the speed of service at the checkout and enable the management of product ranges centrally. The new system will free up management time allowing them to concentrate on delivering excellent customer service.
Increased demand for nursery places helped Co-operative Childcare to grow revenues by 14% to £23m.
Midcounties recently improved its ranking in the Sunday Times ‘25 Best Big Companies to Work For’ initiative, climbing three places to tenth in the list. It also picked up the prestigious Sunday Times ‘Giving Something Back’ award for its commitment to colleagues, communities and members.
Reid said: “The engagement of our 10,000 colleagues is a key element in creating the momentum which ensures we continue to evolve as an innovative and successful co-operative. We are now an independent society with a turnover of over £1bn. Co-operation is clearly working for Midcounties and gives us confidence that we have a sustainable future.”
Encouraging colleagues to volunteer in their local communities continues to be a central part of The Midcounties’ aim to establish a co-operative difference. During the year the number of hours volunteered increased by 10% to 44,440, making the Society one of the biggest supporters of volunteering in the UK. It also smashed its annual fundraising target by raising £273,000 for charity partner Teenage Cancer Trust in just one year and the Society has revised its two-year target upwards to £500,000.
The Midcounties Co-operative is one of the first UK businesses to be awarded the Fair Tax Mark, which confirms that an organisation is open and transparent about its tax affairs and seeks to pay the correct level of corporation tax.