Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society reported a trading update to members at our AGM on Monday 16th May 2022.

Chief Executive Officer, Barry Wood began with a review of 2021, discussing how the pandemic continues to impact people worldwide. The trading year was affected by shifting regulations and quarantine requirements for overseas travel, with national lockdowns keeping both the Quadrant department stores and Co-op travel businesses closed for almost 20% of the year.

There were several financial positives and areas of respectable growth for the Society, including a 4.4% increase in ‘like for like’ gross takings over a two-year period for the Society’s core food business whilst trading profit has increased 24% over the same period. Mr Wood also reported that investment has been made to future-proof the food business, through the Snappy Shopper home delivery service, energy efficiency measures, and self-service tills installed across numerous stores.

For Quadrant department stores, gross takings fell by 40.1% over a two-year period, mainly due to lockdown closures. Mr Wood reported that key challenges included competition from online retailers and a diminishing pool of fashion concessions, following numerous brands going into administration.

The Society’s Co-op Travel business was hardest hit by the pandemic, following an ongoing reluctance to travel through fear of cancellations and rules changes. The decline in turnover across a two-year period of 86.6% came as no surprise.  The travel team, however, worked tirelessly throughout to ensure that customer plans were re-arranged or cancelled depending on the latest guidelines.

For the Society’s Co-op Funeral Directors, gross takings had increased over a two-year period by 1%. Whilst Covid restrictions applied during the financial year, these did not restrict funerals from being delivered in line with the family’s wishes.

Mr Wood was delighted to announce the funeral team’s double award win for ‘Excellent Customer Focus’ (2021 Countywide Business Awards) and ‘Best Funeral Provider – Essex’ (2022 Business Excellence Awards), both accolades that make Chelmsford Star extremely proud.

Despite the difficult conditions, Chelmsford Star has continued to have a major positive impact across the county. The Society’s Community Fund, a grant-based charity initiative in coalition with the Essex Community Foundation, has seen over £24k in grants given in its first year, with a variety of charities and groups benefitting across Chelmsford, Braintree, and Southend areas.

Despite these excellent credentials, the combination of squeezed sales margins and relentless cost increases meant that the society’s gross takings have decreased by 3.2% or by 12.7% across two years.

However, Chelmsford Star continues to dedicate all it can to support Essex and has calculated that 31p in every £1 spent in its stores across the year will be reinvested back into our local economy and communities in some way. ‘That is’, members were reminded, ‘the co-operative difference’.

Full details of the audited figures and annual report are available in the Chelmsford Quadrant and by CLICKING HERE.