Annual Members’ Meeting 2023 - Q&A’s
Please can you tell me what is happening long term about the persistent shoplifting going on in our stores? We occasionally have a guard, that’s it! Police are not interested at all, how can Central Co-op do nothing about their losses and let the shoplifters WIN?
We are working with other Societies and colleagues across the industry to call for more action to be taken by law enforcement to respond to calls. We recently appeared on regional BBC TV and radio to speak about the rise in crime in our stores and the awful circumstances our colleagues are facing.
We continue to work with politicians to raise awareness of the issues and call for greater action in this area. The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues is our highest priority.
We have invested in technology to rollout Watch Me Now cameras and are reviewing initiatives and investments continually.
How can people apply for the debt free degree – when does the window open and where can I find the details for application?
Our latest debt free degree intake has recently closed. Stay tuned to our Careers website, www.careers.coop and sign up for our job alerts to be notified about future debt free degree apprenticeship opportunities.
With the cost of living, could staff discount be raised to 15% (or more) rather than 10%?
Our colleagues get 20% off Co-op branded products in our stores every day, this is on top of our fantastic Member prices in store. During payday weekend, colleagues also get 20% discount on non-Co-op branded products and we are extending our double discount days over the festive period to help our colleagues at what can be an expensive time of year.
Please provide feedback on the performance of the Soft Plastics Recycling system. How effective is it, weight data, contamination etc? That’s a lot to ask at the meeting so a promise to feedback afterwards would be welcome.
We provide recycling solutions for packaging so our Members and customers can dispose of waste responsibly in our stores as part of an initiative with Co-op Group. As we move to the LIDIA network in 2024, this will help to improve this process and increase the amount we can recycle through shared processes. At present, any customer soft plastics are integrated with back-of-house items and a therefore single figure is reported.
Contamination is a challenge, and something we are working with other Societies on how to address moving forward.
Soft plastic recycling – what happened? – do we still offer it? It’s half hearted, in some stores and not others and we don’t promote it.
We provide recycling solutions for packaging so our Members and customers can dispose of waste responsibly in our stores as part of an initiative with Co-op Group. As we move to the LIDIA network in 2024, this will help to improve this process and increase the amount we can recycle through shared processes. All stores should be offering this service, if you’re not seeing this in your local store, please do get in touch or raise this with the team locally.
What steps, if any are Central Co-op taking to remove palm oil from their products (bread, detergents etc)?
We are part of a buying group with Co-op Group and other independent Societies. The buying group have an ongoing focused workstream around the Future of Food. The scope of that includes Palm oil and the ongoing commitment to sourcing Palm Oil responsibly for people and the planet.
Other Co-ops have brilliant apps with discounts, why is the Central app not better? There appears no benefit to the app.
Thanks for downloading our Membership App. We launched in March 2023 and are continually developing new functionality and features. We’ll be looking to launch these in the near future but always welcome ideas and feedback from Members about what we should develop next.
Can we promote or signpost mental health organisations in stores?
We support many organisations in local communities, either through our Member & Community Councils, Member & Community Relations Officers or through Community Dividend grants. We’d encourage all colleagues to share this work with their local communities, Members and customers.
As we will be moving to a 3rd party suppler in the new year, are there any financial penalties to them if they fail to deliver on schedule?
The delivery service contract has clear service level agreements between Central and the Co-operative Group, who run the LIDIA network. These levels are measured weekly and shared between both Central and Co-op Group, so any issues can be raised and resolved to reduce impacts to colleagues, Members and customers.
Why has the Members price of co-op mature cheese increased from £2.00 to £2.75 whilst the list price has remained unaltered at £3.00?
We continue to monitor our Member pricing and the cost price changes that happen in the supply chain. The cost price of the cheese has increased in recent weeks. We’ll look into the Member prices we have in store and always look to offer exceptional value and quality for our Members.
May I ask if you have any plans to assist colleagues who work at stores which do not have free parking? It can be an expensive additional cost, particularly if working full time and 8 hour shifts.
Thank you for raising this. We only have a couple of stores where we believe colleagues may have to pay for parking where store parking is not available. We have picked this up locally with the Operations Manager to review how best we can support our colleagues.
Are there any plans to update any petrol stations?
We have plans to regenerate our Ripley Hartshay Hill petrol site in January 2024 and have further plans (pending finalisation of budgets for 2024) to regenerate the following petrol stations in 2024; Wirksworth, Shepley Lane Head, Barnsley Carlton Road and Sutton in Ashfield Huthwaite Road.
Are we going to get free flu jab this year?
Yes, in September we were delighted to be able to offer free flu vaccinations to colleagues who do not qualify for a free NHS vaccination.
My local store in Duston has a makeover which has certainly improved the shopping experience. Is the makeover programme having a positive effect on sales in these difficult times?
Thank for your comments about Duston store regeneration. All of our investment spend to regenerate retail stores is made on the basis that it generates a positive Net Present Value. We also measure all performance once the work is completed. Each store is tracked weekly against similar stores and the previous year’s results. In general, we see an increase in sales of between 2.5% and a 4.5% when compared to similar stores. For our larger supermarkets it’s higher at around 6.5%.
It would be great to see Central Co-op diversify into new businesses to encourage Member engagement and participation.
Thanks for the feedback. We recently offered Members the opportunity to help shape the future of our Membership in a survey. We received lots of interesting feedback which we’re working through at the moment and hope to share with you in the near future.
Having shopped at my local Central Co-op, the prices compared to other supermarkets are greatly higher. With other major supermarkets dropping prices, will Central Co-op match it, even better, beat prices of other supermarkets?
Our current approach on price is to invest in Member offers, we are investing with an aim of matching the discounters on key lines like everyday essentials such as milk and eggs. This is something we’re always reviewing and there’s more to come throughout December and as we look ahead to 2024.
Lovely to see the rebranding of our Society, which has been very well thought out across the two primary businesses.
Thank you for the feedback! The Brand team have worked really hard to bring it to life.
Why don’t local store managers have greater say on what is stocked in their shop?
We’re currently working through range changes driven by the FRTS buying group, alongside this, we are carefully considering the range as we move into the LIDIA distribution network. Once this has been completed, we’ll be able to work with store teams on specific range requests. In the meantime, please continue to feedback any options that may support store sales directly to the central teams at the Support Centre.
Will in person Members’ meetings resume at more local venues?
In person meetings have now resumed and we have held the last couple of meetings, each in a variety of locations. We also offer an online option so that people can join us remotely. We will review the locations and announce where we will hold our next meeting in advance of the next Members’ meeting due to take place in 2024.
Only the kiosk is staffed most times that I shop, while the self-service checkouts have people waiting for help and the ordinary tills are unstaffed. The staff are few and far between, can this be rectified please?
Thank you for your feedback, we’ll share this with our operational teams.
Why don’t we let people sign up as Members by handwritten forms? Not everyone has or wants to use digital.
To ensure we comply with GDPR regulations around the handling of personal data and capturing consent, we are unable to allow people to sign up to Membership via handwritten application forms. GDPR regulations have been in place for a number of years, and as such the process to join as a Member has been via the website or by calling our Membership team. We introduced the App in March 2023 as an additional means to sign up as well. For any customers wishing to join as Members, please give the team a call Monday-Friday on 0800 050 1601 and they’ll be happy to help.
Would the recent land purchase in Halesworth incorporate bus/transport improvements in support of a transport hub to meet increase in population, size and development?
Our proposals for the land are still at a very early stage. Part of the development process will be to engage with local stakeholders including the Local Authority and planners. Any links to transport facilities would be advantageous and if we can work with, and link into, any transportation improvements near to our land then we will explore those options.
What percentage of purchases are made by Members?
So far this year, 21% of food baskets are purchased by Members.
1. Why can’t I use my card in all Co-op shops in the UK?
2. Can you tell me the difference between the East of England Co-op and Central Co-op?
3. Can the issue of Membership cards be addressed? Co-op Group predominantly advertise on media platforms but the separate Co-op e.g Central don’t give Membership offers to group card holders which causes much confusion.
There are many different co-operative Societies across the UK, and indeed all around the World. A co-operative is a business model, not a brand, and so we are all independent from each other. Each Co-operative Society is run independently of one another, and we each have our own Board of Directors. We all share Co-operative values and the Co-op branded products available, but we are separate businesses.
We always recommend joining the Society your local store is part of, this will be clearly stated on the door of the store. For example, Central Co-op stores will state “Part of Central England Co-operative Society”.
With the closing of our distribution warehouses, who out performed and cheaper than group warehouses, what effect with this have on prices in our stores especially the Member prices as the groups prices are higher.
The closure on the Leicester distribution operation will have no impact on prices, investment in Membership prices is set to continue in to 2024
When are we getting more hours in the bakery? Only getting between 5-6 hours a day isn’t enough time to do all hot food and ISB. We could get more sales if we had more time in the bakery.
Thanks for your feedback, a full remeasure and operational review is planned to be completed on instore bakery and hot food. Selling more products earns more hours, please speak to your Store Manager or Operations Manager on a plan to drive additional sales.
Has the pension deficit improved or worsened since year January 2023?
Information provided by our actuaries indicate that the pensions deficit has improved slightly since January 2023. This is not an audited position, but it is based on the assumptions in place at the year end allowing for changes in market conditions.
The questionable decision by the Co-op Group to reduce the range of own brand/value products available, is now negatively impacting the competitiveness of larger stores operated by this Society. Can you please confirm the commitment of this Society to operate larger full range stores. What steps are being taken by the Society to reverse this misguided decision? Alternatively, will the Co-op Group now allow independent Societies to implement alternative sourcing arrangements to compensate?
Large stores remain a key part of the Society’s estate and strategy with ongoing improvements and investment taking place. Ranges are continually reviewed, and where possible the use of the buying group resources will continue to be the first option. The additional work that currently takes place on buying additional lines by Central Co-op will also continue to take place.
In our Co-op, the Vapes are displayed for sale on the shop floor near the tills. In view of the worry about children becoming addicted, would it not be better if they were kept with the tobacco products?
We are reviewing the merchandising of vape products in our stores and we are connected with industry forums to understand the market and the government guidance on the future of Vapes.
We have vape recycling points in our stores. Due to the products contained in vapes, they are complex to recycle and so we encourage Members and customers to dispose of them responsibly.
Why does the Co-op not have a healthy marketing strategy with carers and children considered?
We promote a variety of products throughout the year, but we always promote healthy food for all sectors of our community including vulnerable people and young people. We have many offers in-store on fresh fruit and vegetables to help our Member’s make savings on everyday essential purchases. We also run healthy eating workshops in schools and communities and include healthy tips and recipes in our Member newsletters and emails.
Why is the Co-op nationally not using a marketing platform campaign?
Each co-operative business operates independently and so we at Central Co-op promote our products and services within the counties that we serve.
Share books. Are we still using them, can Members still pay money in? and if so, how?
If a Member has a share book they can still be used, however share books are not issued to new Members. Members can still contribute to their share account by bank transfer or by cheque. For further details speak to the Membership team on 0800 050 1601. More details and our interest rates are on our website.
When will Central Co-op set-up online share accounts?
This is something that is currently being reviewed by the Society. It requires significant investment and planning to ensure that it will cover the Society’s future needs. We hope that this is something we can offer to our Members in the near future.
Sawbridgeworth store was a Budgens store up until October 2022. After a gap it became Central Co-op. We have been very disappointed that the store now provides much worse service. What is going to be done about that?
Thank you for your feedback, we’re sorry to hear the service hasn’t been up to standard. We’ll share this feedback with the Operations Manager locally to review the service with the Management in store.
Why are store managers who receive bonuses, now excluded from receiving employee dividend? Surely regardless of bonus payments all colleagues should be entitled to their Membership aspect of benefits. Afterall, they are still Members of the business.
This year we doubled the on-target earnings that our store managers could earn on their annual incentive scheme to recognise their contribution to the Society. We have removed all colleagues who are eligible for an annual incentive scheme from colleague dividend so that colleague dividend can be shared with colleagues who do not receive an annual incentive.
Are employees in receipt of universal credit?
As universal credit is administered by the government, we do not have any visibility of our colleague’s universal credit arrangements.