Following a year of investment the East of England Co-op has delivered a healthy trading performance in challenging conditions, despite overall sales and trading profits having fallen in the past year.

The member-owned independent retailer, which has over 200 trading outlets across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, has announced its annual results for 2015/16 which show a 0.9 per cent decrease in turnover. Profit before tax and distributions are up £3.3m to £7.8m, while the underlying trading profit dropped to £3.8m from £4.3m the year before. Members’ funds saw an increase of £16.2m to £233.1m.

Doug Field, joint chief executive for the East of England Co-op, said: “This year our focus has been to ensure the long-term prosperity of our business, investing over £15m to improve our business and taking a number of difficult decisions.

“Looking to enhance the overall shopping experience for our members and customers, this investment included the refurbishment of 46 stores, the opening of four new food stores and 10 new post offices.”

The permanent closure of stores and the temporary closure of stores for refurbishment, contributed towards a 1 per cent decrease in food sales. More positively, the majority of revitalised stores are seeing enhanced sales.

The East of England Co-op’s other businesses increased their sales, with the exception of forecourts (due to the falling price of fuel) and the Distribution Centre (which saw a 2.2 per cent decrease in sales) reflecting the challenging food retail

market.

The East of England Co-op’s travel business did particularly well; an impressive 19.5 per cent increase saw sales approach £5m for the year. East of England Co-op Funeral Services also saw year-on-year growth with sales up 4.8 per cent. Sourced

Locally, the East of England Co-op’s multi-award winning initiative, has seen continued success with a further 15 per cent increase in yearly sales. Since Sourced Locally began in 2007, over £45m has been ploughed back into the local economy.

Doug said: “There is no doubt that 2016 is going to be a tough year, with the introduction of the National Living Wage and the removal of tax breaks for purchasing green energy. The new business tax for apprenticeships is also a future cost that’s beyond our control.

“However, we are committed to the continuation of the refurbishment of our existing stores, with the expansion of our funeral business also a key area of focus.”