The East of England Co-operative says an increase in cash flow will enable it to continue with its ambitious investment plans for the business despite a dip in profits due to a tough economic climate.

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The Society’s turnover of £180.5million is down 6.1 per cent compared with last year and its underlying trading profit of £5.6m is down £1.3m compared with last year.

But it says the results have come as no surprise and, despite tough times, it remains focused on expanding the business using acquisition opportunities.

The interim results for the first half of the financial year show that the trading operations for the largest independent retailer in East Anglia produced a “healthy” net cash inflow of £13.8m, which generated a £2.7m increase in cash.

The society said the increase has enabled it to invest more than £6m in expanding its business. As a result of this investment the consumer co-operative, which is owned entirely by its members including customers, employees and the local community, has increased its members’ funds by over £2.5m to £242.3m since the end of the year.

Doug Field, Executive Officer - Finance and Technology, said: “We anticipated both difficult trading conditions and the dip in this year’s profits as the economic climate remains tough. Every sale and penny of our £5.6m profit has been hard won.

“We remain focused on creating a modern, customer-focused Society that is built on quality, profitability and social responsibility. It has been a productive first half of the year in terms of meeting our ambitious growth plans and we have continued to embrace our Co-operative values by supporting and investing in the local communities in which we operate.”

The East of England Co-operative Society’s highlights from the last six months include:

· The opening of a new £3.5 million supermarket in Wickham Market, Suffolk

· The investment of nearly £1million in the renovation of the Society’s Earls Colne store in Essex and over £300,000 on the refurbishment of the North Earlham store in Norwich

· Providing a lifeline for the village of Walberswick by acquiring The Tuck Shop, the village’s only local store, to save it from potential closure

· The launch of the Society’s Regional Investment Fund which will support new and growing businesses in the East of England

· The donation of £30,000 to three neonatal units across East Anglia to help buy new, specialist ventilator equipment for babies in intensive care

· The launch of a collaboration with the Ambulance Service which will provide 100 potentially life-saving defibrillation machines at rural locations across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex

The complete interim report is available on the East of England Co-operative Society website at www.eastofengland.coop

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