How has the Co-op beaten the recession?
SUFFOLK: With Britain only now starting to emerge from recession, the East of England Co-op has been a beacon through the stormy waters.
CHIEF executive Richard Samson puts the society's success down to an emphasis on the quality of what it offered customers.
“Since the merger of the Ipswich & Norwich and Colchester societies to form the East of England Co-op four years ago, we have invested many millions of pounds to bring our food stores up to standard and I think our customers have appreciated that,” said Mr Samson.
A greater emphasis had also been placed on local food, with “food miles” being indicated in many cases, while the national buying group for the co-operative movement had also improved its offer and buying power, said Mr Samson.
He also paid tribute to the contribution of the society's 5,000 staff to its success.
“The hard work and commitment from colleagues across the society is once again a key factor in our success and this was recognised by the payment of an Employee Dividend for the second successive year,” he said.
“Based on our financial results from last year over �800,000 has been shared among nearly 3,000 qualifying colleagues.”
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Recent months have seen multi-million pound investment in the society's large supermarkets across the region.
Looking ahead, Mr Samson said the store refurbishment programme would continue and the society would also seek opportunities to open new food stores.
Mr Samson added that it had been “a huge and difficult decision” to sell the department stores business but the society was now happy with its portfolio of businesses and did not envisage further disposals.
However, a number of new businesses were planned, some confidential at this stage but including the use of Wherstead Park as a business centre and regional training academy and, subject to planning consent, for events and conferences