The Midcounties Co-operative’s travel businesses have enjoyed an “exceptional year”, according to the society’s annual results.
The society reported gross sales for travel of £344 million for the year ending January 28, 2017, compared to £298 the previous year.
The society said there were “strong results” for its high street travel agencies, Personal Travel Agents (homeworkers) and the Co-op Consortium.
The retail business received a number of awards during the year, including the Gold Medal/Travel 2 Large Agency of the Year, and the report added: “We were also especially proud of the many colleagues who received external recognition for their achievements.”
Four travel agency branches refurbishements were completed last year in Finchfield, Codsall, Stourport and Worcester.
Its Personal Travel Agents’ division had a record year for sales, with the number of agents increasing to 142. Sales improved following the launch of an online training scheme focused on advance, personalised customer service skills.
The society’s customer loyalty index score scored in the top 1% of all UK retailers, according to the report.
Sales for the Co-op Consortium, now in its fifth year, were up by more than a third year on year. The consortium attracted five new members, taking the total number to 40.
Co-operative Holidays, its tour operation, also “grew significantly” last year, with city breaks and Co-operative Rooms performing well.
In total, 5,000 passengers travelled on its own branded holidays and 20,000 clients bought room-only.
In its annual report, the society said the result was “particularly pleasing given the challenges from the falling pound and a reduction in demand for a number of popular destinations following security concerns.”
The Society as a whole reported an 8% increase in gross sales to £1.35 billion for the year to January 28, 2017. It posted profits before significant items of £11.4 million, compared to £15.5 million last year.
Ben Reid, group chief executive, said: “The Society has continued to make good progress, matching commercial success with a strong focus on co-operation and member engagement.
“We continued to invest, spending £30 million on site acquisitions, branch refurbishments and IT infrastructure, while our strong cash generation allowed us to reduce borrowings to £18 million, comfortably within agreed limits.”
He said the year ahead would be challenging but Reid was confident Midcounties would absorb extra costs such as increases in the National Living Wage, business rates and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.
“This all adds up to a challenging year to come but the decisions and actions taken this year mean we are well placed to meet these challenges and continue to progress our strategic objectives,” he said.
In terms of the society’s other divisions, its food and funeral businesses outperformed expectations and the energy business continued to grow. Its Healthcare business was hit by reductions in government funding.
In total the society took on 109,000 new members in 2016, with membership now standing at 649,000.
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