/EINPresswire.com/ Community retailer The Midcounties Co-operative has announced strong half year trading figures despite the recession, and a record capital investment of £33 million in the business.

The member-owned Society, which has food, travel, childcare and an Energy business among its trading sectors, increased gross sales by 12.5% from £388m to £436m and its operating profit before significant items was £10.4m, £52,000 more than the same period last year.

Its Food business performed well in the face of increasing competition and a very difficult trading environment with a like-for-like sales increase of 1.9%. Overall sales were 5.2% above last year following the acquisition of the Harry Tuffins chain and the opening of four new stores.

There was particularly strong growth in Midcounties Co-op Travel (39.8%) and Childcare (39.7%) and also in Energy which only started trading in May 2011 but contributed sales of £10.7m during the half year to 28 July.

Chief Executive Ben Reid said: “It has been an exciting six months as we have continued our strategy of strengthening by diversification. We have invested significantly to develop our childcare, energy and travel businesses and also maintained our focus on our core businesses.

“There is no doubt that trading is tough at the moment and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. However, developing businesses which display a real co-operative difference and delivering excellent customer service supported by an engaged and motivated workforce will carry us through these difficult times.

“In this the International Year of Co-operatives we are pleased we have achieved solid trading performances across the board.”

Ben and representatives of Midcounties’ executive presented the Half Year Report and answered questions at a series of meetings for members in its trading heartlands in Shropshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, West Midlands and Gloucestershire.

The report showed that trade with members increased to 41% of sales (2011:40%) and Midcounties recruited almost 34,000 new members compared to 23,000 in the same period last year.

The Society, which also operates funeral, pharmacy, Post Offices and employee benefits businesses, does not judge its performance solely in financial terms.

During the half year it gave more than £112,500 worth of support back to its local communities and colleagues supplied more than 18,000 volunteer hours to support local organisations. In the Olympic year it also donated more than £15,000 to support youth sport and raised an additional £100,000 for charity partner Women’s Aid.

Highlights in the period included being voted ‘The Best Co-operative Retailer’ by shoppers in the CTP (Convenience Tracking Programme) Awards, and Co-operative Energy winning the Positive Change Award at the Which? Awards. Midcounties’ environmental work was also recognised by an environmental leadership award from Business in the Community and a Big Tick.

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Notes to Editors

The Midcounties Co-operative has its headquarters in Warwickshire, with trading outlets in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Shropshire, West Midlands, Worcestershire and the surrounding counties.

The Society’s trading groups are food retail, funeral, travel, pharmacy, childcare nurseries, employee benefits and energy. The Midcounties Co-operative is the largest independent co-operative society in the UK and has more than 470 branches, and 245,000 active trading members. It is in The Sunday Times Best 25 Big Companies To Work For list for the second year running.

The Society’s mission statement is ‘To be a successful consumer co-operative working towards creating a better, fairer world, and to enhance the lives of our colleagues, members, customers, and the communities we serve’.

For more details call Lorna Bishop at Seal on 0121 616 5800. Visit www.midcounties.coop

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives, highlighting the contribution of co-operatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The Year will highlight the strengths of the co-operative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socio-economic development.

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