Co-op trading profit hit by competition

The overall trading profit of the Co-operative movement fell from pounds 160m to pounds 136m last year, the first decline since 1989, members were told yesterday at its annual congress in Cardiff.

The fall was blamed on increased retail competition. Turnover rose 2 per cent to just under pounds 8bn while membership increased by 136,000 to 9.1 million and reserves rose 2.6 per cent to pounds 1.2bn.

Despite the downturn in trading profit, the congress was told that many regional and locally based societies had achieved healthy increases in both turnover and profitability. The Co-op is the country's biggest retailer with more than 4,500 outlets ranging from hypermarkets and superstores to chemists and shoe chains, funeral parlours and travel shops.

In the core food business there was no increase in sales while non-food Co-op businesses only achieved a 2 per cent improvement.

However, travel income was up by 9 per cent and motors by 12 per cent while the funeral business increased turnover by 4 per cent.

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