Chelmsford Star, the £103m turnover Essex-based co-operative, has reported a reversal of a downward trend in profit in the year to 28 January.

The society, with a portfolio that includes about 40 convenience stores, increased its surplus before interest from £1.546m to £1.68m on gross takings up from £101.29m to £103.58m.

Gross food takings excluding fuel amounted to £78.29m – up 1.1% on a like-for-like basis.

It reported a reduction in customers buying services, such as paying bills, mobile phone top-ups and lottery tickets. Turnover grew 3.8% on a like-for-like basis with services stripped out.

Chelmsford Star closed its lossmaking Exchange Way, Chelmsford, store during the year and opened three new outlets in London Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Wood Lane, Dagengham and Portsea Road, Tilbury.

Two others stores were refurbished including the installation of energy-efficient technologies.

The year also saw the food business integrate four post offices within the stores at Danbury, Hutton, Writtle and Blackmore.

The annual report and accounts showed the food business increased trading profit 19.1% year on year, which it said reflected the three newly-acquired stores and improved food turnover.

Fundraising manager Paula Ashfield announced at the annual general meeting on 8 May that customers and staff had raised more than £34,000 for local charity KIDS Inspire. This year’s charity will be Little Havens Hospice.

The society has been shortlisted for Co-operatives UK’s Co-operative of the Year 2017.