Strong performances across the business have helped community retailer Lincolnshire Co-op record sales of £312m – up by more than £10m.
In the 2016/17 financial year, Lincolnshire Co-op saw total sales rise by 3.5 per cent. In a competitive retail environment, sales in food stores went up by 6.8 per cent and travel branches recorded growth of 10.4 per cent.
Group trading surplus remained healthy at £16m, though it fell from the £20m recorded in the previous year due to cuts to NHS pharmacy income and rising pension costs. The Society also made a major investment in a brand-new dividend card, app and systems which will improve services for members.
More than 280,000 members own Lincolnshire Co-op and receive a share of the profits in dividend. If the Society has performed well, they also get a dividend bonus each year.
This year’s positive trading result means members who go to the Society’s annual meetings in November will be asked to approve a dividend bonus of 85p per £1 of dividend collected during the year.
If given the go-ahead, members will share £1.9m in bonus on top of the £2.2m paid out during the year – a total of £4.1m.
The introduction of more chilled food and food-to-go products, plus a busy refurbishment programme, helped food stores record robust growth.
Sales of Lincolnshire Co-op’s own Love Local range went up by a huge 22 per cent. These products from smaller, regional producers now share shelf space with other items of their type making it even easier for customers to buy products from the area.
This year, Lincolnshire Co-op made the decision to shut its two food distribution centres in Lincoln and fully join the national co-operative distribution network. This will offer more choice to food store customers and meets the demands of changing shopping habits. It will also lead to significant savings, which can be invested in new and improved services.
Holidaymakers continued to choose the security of booking with a trusted name and passenger numbers grew by 4 per cent at Lincolnshire Co-op’s 13 travel branches.
More people entrusted Lincolnshire Co-op’s expert teams with funeral arrangements this year and income from the Society’s funeral homes, florist and crematorium rose by 8.0 per cent.
Pharmacies continued to provide a vital service to the community with more than 16,400 medicine reviews and consultations completed, over 2,600 health checks carried out and 5.5m prescriptions dispensed.
Lincolnshire Co-op’s 2,800 colleagues benefit from a profit share scheme and this year were paid the equivalent of over a week’s wages.
Local businesses help develop, maintain and bring forward Lincolnshire Co-op’s services and property projects. Over £12m was spent with firms from the area this year. Schemes have included a new food store in Goxhill, funeral homes in Coningsby and Market Rasen, the Cornhill Quarter project in Lincoln city centre, which saw the first tenants open their doors in October, and investment in the Lincoln Science and Innovation Park.
£1.5m was invested in member and community support including rolling out the new dividend card and dividend card app, sponsorships of local events and teams, plus supporting three volunteer-run libraries in Waddington, Spilsby and Holbeach.
Lincolnshire Co-op also took over a network of health walks this year which were set to lose funding. The Society now supports volunteers across the area who run 65 walks, with over 2,500 registered participants.
The Community Champions scheme links dividend card holders to good causes near them. Every time a member shops, a donation goes to the current Community Champions. Colleagues’ fundraising and carrier bag proceeds are also added.
This year, over £663,000 was given away including £290,000 of support to homeless charities, £144,000 to hospices, £126,000 to green spaces and £103,000 to local good causes.
Volunteering projects are regularly organised by Lincolnshire Co-op and 27,000 hours were given to the community by both staff and members of the Society this year.
Chief Executive Lincolnshire Co-op Ursula Lidbetter said: “There is no doubt that trading conditions are tough out there in many areas of our business. We run lots of different valued services and it means we face a variety of challenges; from the highly competitive food retail environment to dealing with substantial cuts to NHS pharmacy income.
“To make sure we remain sustainable, we have to meet and adapt to these challenges and sometimes make difficult decisions, such as the closure of our distribution centres this year.
“It also takes hard work, ideas and energy. It’s testament to our dedicated colleagues and the support of our members that together, we’ve achieved another strong trading result.
“Lincolnshire Co-op aims to make life better in our communities. This year we’ve used our success to undertake projects which we can all be proud of, such as sustaining a network of health walks in our area, developing the Cornhill Quarter project in Lincoln city centre and giving hundreds of local groups support through our Community Champions scheme.”