Strong performances across the business have helped community retailer Lincolnshire Co-op record sales of £312m – up by more than £10m.
The society saw total sales rise by 3.5 per cent over the 2016/17 financial year, with sales in food stores up by 6.8 per cent. The society's own Love Local range enjoyed a mammoth 22 per cent sales hike, while 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 major investment in a new dividend card, app and systems which will improve services for members.
Lincolnshire Co-op's 280,000 members will now be asked to approve a dividend bonus of £1.9m this month (November) - on top of the £2.2m paid out during the year. Lincolnshire Co-op’s 2,800 colleagues also benefited via the soiciety's profit share scheme and were paid the equivalent of over a week’s wages.
Lincolnshire Co-op Chief Exceutive,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."
More than £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.
Ursula Lidbetter added: "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."
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' worth of support were given to the community by both staff and members of the society this year.