Supermarket battle for Suffolk shoppers

A SUPERMARKET chain has launched an unprecedented battle to win over Suffolk shoppers in a bid to get the Co-op to "Flock-off".Supermarket chain Somerfield has today admitted launching the bid for market share by offering cash bonuses to staff if they succeed in forcing its rival, Co-op, to close stores.

A SUPERMARKET chain has launched an unprecedented battle to win over Suffolk shoppers in a bid to get the Co-op to "Flock-off".

Supermarket chain Somerfield has today admitted launching the bid for market share by offering cash bonuses to staff if they succeed in forcing its rival, Co-op, to close stores.

Centring on Co-op's television advertisements featuring animated sheep characters, Somerfield has developed a campaign called "Co-op Flock Off", which aims to "silence the lambs".

Somerfield has offered its managers £5,000 incentives to force the closure of 200 Co-op stores throughout the country and promised other staff £500 bonuses for luring Co-op staff to work at its stores.

The campaign is outlined in an internal manager's briefing document, which is labelled "strictly confidential" and warns staff not to take it from their stores.

It says: "Let's 'herd' these customers back into our 'flock' and make the Co-op's life 'shear' hell. We should treat our local Co-op like 'lambs to the slaughter' and let's have the 'best end' possible and…'silence the lambs'."

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In the document, which was leaked to The Evening Star, managers are told: "Recent analysis has shown that the Co-op are taking market share from Somerfield.

"Our latest Brand Image Monitor shows Somerfield underperforming against the Co-op in terms of overall range, cleanliness, store layout and checkout queues."

Somerfield admitted the document was genuine and said it was written in response to attempts by Co-op to "squeeze" its neighbourhood stores.

Ipswich and Norwich Co-operative Society has hit out at the "Flock Off" campaign, labelling it "aggressive" and "desperate".

INCS chief executive Richard Samson said: "The main word that comes to mind is disappointment that any competitor would stoop to this.

"If it's a genuine document that they've actually issued to store management, which it appears to be, I've been in retail management for 30 years and I've never seen anything like it.

"It's something we wouldn't stoop to at the Co-op.

"I find it very difficult to believe. It certainly smacks of desperation."

Somerfield is encouraging its staff to get to know Co-op stores as well as their own so that they know which areas to target.

Spokesman for Somerfield, Pete Williams said: "Food retail is an extremely competitive market and supermarkets are constantly seeking to gain market share from each other.

"The Co-op has increasingly been targeting Somerfield customers and aiming to squeeze our local neighbourhood stores.

"In response to this activity Somerfield has energised its store managers in locations where they are in direct competition with Co-op stores to pull back these customers and sales by emphasising our great value and promotional package."

Among the Co-op stores to be targeted are those at Saxmundham, Southwold and Halstead.

N What do you think about Somerfield's "Flock Off" campaign? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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