We’ve updated our system behind the scenes which means if you’re an existing Member (before 28th February 2023), you’ll need to reactivate your account online.

Annual Members’ meeting update May 2024

Our Annual Members’ meeting was held on Wednesday 1st May and more than 850 Members joined us at our meetings in Lichfield, Derby, Leicester, Peterborough, Chesterfield and online. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can watch a recording of the meeting here.

Central Co-op Members voted on six motions during the meeting and the results are available below.

Click here to view the motion results

We’d like to thank our Members for attending our annual Members’ meeting and for participating in our democracy.

Questions and answers

What was the reason for not having a proposer and seconder for candidate elections?
Proposers and seconders were required for Board Director nominations. Following feedback from Members about making the Membership Community Council (MCC) nomination process more accessible and easier for new Members to complete, they were not required for MCC elections.

Does the Co-op offer any branded Membership items, such as badges or car stickers which would demonstrate Members’ pride in being part of the Co-op and also serve as potential recruitment promotion?
Thanks for the great idea, we’ll look into this.

Can we use non or existing technology in store so that customers who don’t have access to technology can join as Members? Their details could be taken by colleagues, including payment of £1 to avoid ‘online’ spending.
We’re looking into how we can make joining as a Member as easy as possible and the technology we can use, but always making sure we’re doing this in a compliant way as joining as a Member requires customers to share personal details with the Society.

How has the Co-op sector’s retail market share evolved in the last 12 months?
Market share perspectives will vary depending on comparator e.g. convenience or total retail, geography, volume or value but whilst the market remains competitive, co-operatives have seen positive share performance in the retail convenience sector. Co-operatives UK also produce periodic updates on the performance of co-operatives and retail co-operatives for further reading. (The Co-operative and Mutual Economy | Co-operatives UK)

Can you provide more information on the performance of the pension scheme? There’s only been a modest improvement in the scheme deficit in the past 2 years despite substantial funding contributions and a significant increase in the discount rate.
Our deficit reflects the net position of our fund assets and liabilities. The assets have run off over time reflecting scheme utilisation. Our medium-term objective is to reduce investment risk and long-term to achieve self-sufficiency.
Many factors impact the actuarial assumptions alongside discount rate including life expectancies, investment returns and short-term inflation, which are part-offset by the Society contributions. By way of example, in 2024, discount rate reduced the deficit, life expectancies reduced the deficit, Society contributions reduced but investment returns and short-term inflation increased the deficit.
Investing in pay is a key priority for the Society. The commitment to increase our rates of pay to £12.00 per hour for store colleagues (ahead of the National Living Wage) was reflected in our Budget and we are pleased that this was implemented last month. We will continue to invest over the life of our five-year plan.

Would Co-op look at investment to enhance local mental health services and community groups?
Members told us in our Meaningful Membership survey last year that mental health & wellbeing was the most important cause to them so we’re looking at how we can expand our support in this area. We launched our search for a new charity partner in March and have received over 100 nominations. We’re currently shortlisting and a key criteria for our new partnership is mental health support in the community. We have for many years supported local mental health organisations via our Community Dividend Fund.

There seems to be multiple sites with ample car park spacing which could potentially be used for sustainable community initiatives. Is there an opportunity to utilise this surplus space for free if the positive community benefits, outweigh the financial return?
We are always looking for ways we can offer sustainability driven initiatives across our estate and welcome any ideas about specific locations. We have invested Carrier Bag Levy funds to create five Sustainable Spaces at our trading sites in recent years.

How can Co-op improve the range of products for diabetics and increase its gluten free and sugar free range?
We continue to look at options to provide the best range we can. Competitor visits have taken place, and a gap analysis has now been completed, and we expect to offer more products in this space soon.

Does the Society know when Co-operative Group will be offering resomation funerals, following its commitment to explore this further in July 2023? In the future, will Central Co-op be able to offer resomation funerals at Bretby Crematorium?
Co-operative Group are continuing to explore resomation as part of a future offer. We continue to explore new opportunities to evolve our proposition at Bretby but we cannot yet confirm if this will be part of a future offer for Central Co-op customers.

What is the Society’s strategic vision for the property portfolio?
The Society’s strategic vision for the property portfolio is to pro-actively manage all of its assets to support its trading businesses and communities as well as create and protect value for the Society, which will be achieved through the Society’s dedicated property team.

With the £500 million lawsuit with Co-operative Group going on, what is the risk to us? (https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britains-co-op-disputing-450-mln-stg-legal-claim-2023-02-10/)
This is a legal matter for the Co-operative Group which is run as a separate co-operative business. We cannot comment on any potential risk to our Society at this time.

In some stores, I have seen e-cigarettes displayed prominently near to the checkout and at a height which attracts children. Are there any plans to review this?
We continue to look at this category, including the product range and product location. This will enable us to make the best decisions before the disposable vape ban in 2025.

Are there any availability issues with core items in our stores? The lack of everyday essentials is concerning on bread, milk, eggs and own brand products.
There are no reported issues with supply and core availability throughout the distribution network and availability remains at a steady state across the Society’s stores.

Are there any plans to remove parcels instore? It accumulates queues and can be frustrating for staff and customers.
The plan is around creating the right balance to serve our Member and customer needs, making it simpler for store colleagues to serve. Improvement around commercial income & lockers are also part of the solution currently being explored.

I just want to say how impressed I am that Co-op radio puts on reggae and Rnb. As a person of colour, it definitely shows diversity within Co-op and is moving with the times.
Thank you for the feedback!

Can you report on the performance of the flexible plastic recycling collection scheme?
The flexible plastics scheme’s success has been limited by poor customer compliance leading to levels of contamination that were regularly unsuited to our previous waste management practices. Now that the flexible plastics have been brought under the remit of the LIDIA network, this issue is mitigated. We will continue to educate customers on the right behaviours to ensure maximum benefit from the scheme.

Are the number of own Brand goods decreasing in our stores?
There has been a decrease in Co-op own label products available in stores over the last 18 months, and this has been challenged via the Buying Group. There are commitments from the Buying Group to refocus on Co-op brand and increase the range in the future.

Is there a proposed timescale for the opening of the new shop/cafe/community facility at Shelton Lock in Derby?
Yes there is! Having been beset with planning approval delays and construction cost increases, we now have approval to commence this site’s development.
The developer will start on the site later in May, with a view to completing building work by November so that the store can open by mid-December.

Are there any plans to open a convenience store in Chesterfield town centre?
There are no current plans to open a store in Chesterfield town centre.

With the Nationwide potentially buying Co-op bank, will my Co-op credit card still be eligible for dividend? Can we have one Co-op eg amalgamation of Central, Tamworth, Lincoln etc
Any changes to credit card eligibility would only take affect after any purchase of the Co-op Bank was completed by another Bank or Building Society. Members should contact the Co-op Bank directly to discuss the impact of any products held with the Bank if there is a buyout. There are no plans currently in place for other Independent Societies to merge.

Could you tell me if there are opportunities for Society colleagues to access mental health support?
All our colleagues have access to our new wellbeing campaign ‘We’ve got you’ which gives colleagues easy access to the mental health support available for their area of the Society. This can be found in our wellbeing centre on the difference maker hub which is open to all Society colleagues.

The nearest Co-op food stores to King’s Lynn, a built-up area of about 50,000 people, are in two villages, 6 and 10 miles away. Is the Society aware of the new estates being built, with more planned on the edges of King’s Lynn with district centres including new shops and is the Co-op looking to open stores in this town?

The Society pro-actively monitors new housing developments across its whole trading area to identify possible opportunities for new stores, whether as a stand alone opportunity or as part of a new local centre. Many of the Society’s more recent store openings are examples of this. In respect of Kings Lynn, the Society is aware of several proposed new housing developments in the Kings Lynn area including Knights Hill, South Wootton and Narborough and these are being monitored for any opportunities that arise.

Why is the gender pay gap not zero?
Our work to reduce our gender pay gap continues with our focus on inclusion and developing colleagues within the Society to improve gender balance in roles. In the past 12 months, we have improved the gender balance of most senior roles and senior operation roles to decrease our gender pay gap and are committed to continuing to improve this.

Was there a strategic decision to close Co-op petrol stations?
Central Co-op still operates a network of petrol filling stations. Co-operative Group made the decision to sell its petrol stations in 2022.

As a former small independent retailer I would like to thank you for all your efforts on retail crime. The Co-op had a voice that could speak for us all and bring about much-needed change. Thank you
Thank you for the feedback!

It is great to see EV charging in some store car parks but when will every Retail store with a car park also have secure cycle parking that allows two wheels to be locked?
We’re committed to providing sustainable and secure ways for our Members and customers to visit our stores. All our new stores are fitted with secure bike loops, and most offer a bike repair station. Also, our store regenerations always have provision for bikes.

Why do Lincoln Co-op stores not accept Co-op cards from other Societies?
Each Society can extend Member benefits and accept other Society Membership cards. This has typically been part of the co-operative affinity model. At present, only Central Co-op, The Co-operative Group, Midcounties Co-operative and Chelmsford Star remain Members of the affinity.

With the Member prices for Central Co-op Members, we’re finding there are sometimes new Member deals that store colleagues aren’t aware of. Is there anything that could be done about this?
We’re sorry to hear of this experience. We will be focusing on ensuring that Member and colleague communications on Member offers are fully aligned going forward.

Central Co-op doesn’t accept every Society card (eg East of England). Why don’t all Co-ops accept all other Societies member cards?
Each Society can extend Member benefits and accept other Society Membership cards. This has typically been part of the co-operative affinity model. At present, only Central Co-op, The Co-operative Group, Midcounties Co-operative and Chelmsford Star remain Members of the affinity.

Why have Central Co-op chosen to work with Olio?
Our FareShare partnership relied on our distribution team and since we transitioned to the LIDIA network, we needed a new solution to ensure any surplus food continued to support local communities safely and effectively. We spoke to a number of partners including FareShare and Neighbourly and ran a pilot with Olio in the summer last year. Their team of 100,000 Food Waste Hero volunteers provide good coverage (over 90%) for all our stores, 7 days a week in a truly co-operative, collaborative, community-based project.

How are we protecting staff in stores against retail crime?
The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues is our highest priority. As part of our work to raise awareness of colleague safety and having faced a 59% increase in retail crime in 2023, we wrote 34 letters to MPs and hosted a number of MP and PPC visits at our stores where our colleagues have been assaulted to rally for support and change. We continue to work with other Societies and colleagues across the industry to call for more action to be taken by the government in this area.
As part of investment in protective equipment and security measures, we’ve rolled out the “Watch Me Now” program across 126 of our stores, with plans to install this technology across the entire retail portfolio. We also adopted the “Shopkind” campaign and relaunched the “Be Safe Be Secure” in store promotion to put colleague safety at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
To further increase safety in our stores, we’re trialing product protection on high value items, and we’ve developed an external relationship with NCR, a network and online security business to improve risk assessments of ATM locations. Following the introduction of self-checkouts, we’ve been successful in reducing cash collections, which not only reduces the risk of interception, we’re also on track for an annual forecasted saving of £92,000.

Can we get QR scanners in store? I know we don’t have QR codes on our cards but it would allow us to scan other Societies Membership cards and show our support in the Societies as a whole?
Each Society can extend Member benefits and accept other Society Membership cards. This has typically been part of the co-operative affinity model. At present, only Central Co-op, The Co-operative Group, Midcounties Co-operative and Chelmsford Star remain Members of the affinity.

Does the Society encourage and support disabled people into roles in our food and funeral businesses?
The Society operates a policy of equal opportunities and positively welcomes applications from candidates irrespective of disability. During our recruitment process we offer to make adjustments for candidates and encourage disclosure to enable any support they made need to achieve their role and feel happy at Central Co-op. We offer supported placements with our work experience for prospective employees and young people wanting to gain work ready skills. One of our store managers has just been recognised at Wayfinder employer awards for the support the team have given with students at Landmarks specialist college in Nottingham. We have just launched our colleague inclusion networks and are pleased that one of these networks is dedicated to colleagues with disabilities. Having the network allows colleagues with disabilities to come together and to shape and improve the Society for colleagues, customers and Members for the future.

A store in Solihull at Monkspath was badly damaged by fire and has never re-opened. Are there plans to open any new stores in the Solihull area to replace this one?
There are proposals for the Society to open a new store at Kinghurst in Solihull as part of the local authorities regeneration proposals of the Kinghurst centre. This will be a relocation of the current temporary store in that location.

Are Central Co-op intending to support the United Nations International Year of Co-operative in 2025?
This is very much on our radar and we’re keen to support. It will be a great opportunity for us to showcase Our Malawi Partnership and the alignment of this project to several U.N Sustainable Development Goals.

With some big stores making losses and with the challenging trading conditions, are we looking to close any stores in the near future?
Our estate is constantly reviewed along with initiatives to drive cost savings across our portfolio of loss-making stores to improve profitability. The closure of stores is always the last option we consider.