The Society presented its annual update to members at it’s ‘virtual’ AGM on Monday evening. CEO, Barry Wood commented that “the past 13 months have been like none we have ever known before” and thanked colleagues for assisting the Society ‘to weather the storm’ through their hard work.
There were several financial positives and areas of respectable growth for the Society, including a 13.62% increase in ‘like for like’ gross takings for the Society’s core food business. Trading profitability in the food business grew in the year by 110%, a result of more people using convenience stores as they worked from home and stayed local.
Numerous plans were reported for our food business, including the introduction of Snappy Shopper; a food delivery app, plans for numerous store refits and future acquisitions, and a roll out of body cameras to ensure the safety of colleagues following a rise in customer abuse.
Mr Wood also spoke about the impact the Society has on the environment, reaching our 5-year energy targets by reducing electricity usage by 25%, and reported that plans were in place to further reduce the Society’s carbon footprint, including future trials with solar panels.
Gross takings in the Department Store business fell year-on-year by 61.8%, due to the closure of the stores for over 40% of the year. Plans for future growth include adding new fashion brands to the stores, filling gaps left by the closure of the Arcadia group.
The Society’s travel business recorded a decrease in gross takings of 97.1%, as a result of the large level of cancellations that were processed due to government restrictions on travel.
Gross takings within the Society’s funeral business decreased by 0.8%, on a ‘like-for-like’ basis, despite an increase in the number of funerals conducted of 13%. Restrictions caused by the pandemic meant that the very nature of a funeral had changed, with limited people and services available, and that the average price of a funeral was significantly less than ‘normal’.
Turning to our Community Impact, we also announced that, despite the financial difficulties many were facing over the last year, our members and colleagues had raised over £20,000 towards the Coronavirus Response and Recovery fund. It will be distributed as grants.
Finally, the Society reported that all future fundraising would be done through a new Community Fund, which would be managed by the Essex Community Foundation. Through this fund, grants of between £1,500 and £5,000 would be issued throughout the year to local causes that needed additional support.