The Southern Co-operative is celebrating a strong increase in its annual sales. The Society, which has 250 community food stores and funeral operations in 11 counties across the South of England, reported a 4.7% increase in total income to £366.8m for the 53 weeks to 30 January 2016. Group operating profit increased 4.4% to £4.8m.
Mark Smith, chief executive for The Southern Co-operative, said: “These results reflect the continued hard work and commitment of all our colleagues. Our business has grown significantly following investment over recent years and we continue to grow, with £17m invested back into the business last year.
“In our food business, this investment enabled us to open 11 new stores, and to implement important changes to store layouts that will enable us to more accurately match our product ranges to the needs of local customers. Retail sales in the year grew by £14.5m to £346.3m while sales of locally sourced products, branded as Local Flavours and now stocked in 75% of our stores, increased by 10%. More generally like-for-like food sales strengthened during the year and were 3.1% higher in the final quarter
“In End of Life Services, our estate grew to 52 funeral homes and we provided 5,200 families with funeral, cremation or natural burial services. The Oaks Crematorium in Havant, finished its second full year of operation with a 40% increase in the number of cremations conducted whilst sales of pre-paid funeral plans rose by 29%.
“To support our growing scale we continued our investment in our people, primarily through our internal TSC Academy which allows colleagues, at all levels, to learn and develop.”
The Southern Co-operative also reported further progress on an ambitious project to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions across the store estate which continued throughout 2015-16. Since 2010, energy efficiency in stores has now improved by 38%, while the installation of LED lighting throughout food stores this year is predicted to save a further 1,800 tonnes per annum of carbon and approximately £0.4m a year in electricity costs going forward.
The Society continued to share profits totalling £2.8m during 2015. The Share of The Profits scheme rewarded member purchases at a rate of 2p in the £1, which has been maintained throughout the period since 2010. Local communities across the south last year benefited from total contributions of nearly £0.7m.
Smith said: “In the coming year we will focus investment on further developing our convenience food offer, including additional work on ranging and the opening of 20 new stores, whilst we continue work to mature the more recent openings in our End of Life Services business. Our longstanding commitment to supporting our communities will benefit from the launch of our Love Your Neighbourhood initiative in 2016.”