The UK’s largest independent co-operative society is separating the management of its 25 supermarkets from its total estate of 238 food stores as part of a new strategy to increase the performance of its units that are more than 8,000sq ft in size.
The move – introduced this month by Midcounties’ new group general manager of food Phil Ponsonby and headed up by previous district manager Mark Taylor – recognises the different requirements of its bigger stores and will enable the Society to introduce new innovations and trial different concepts.
As part of the move, the Society has signed its first concession agreements with non-food retailers this month, including Dorothy Perkins, Brantano, The Works and Bon Marche, who will be taking space in its larger stores.
It’s also trialling a completely new supermarket format at its Chipping Norton store, which is being extended to 14,000 sq ft. A Discovery Zone is being created in the store to showcase new local products, services and the work that The Midcounties Co-operative does in the local Oxfordshire community. There will also be bakery, butchery, fish and deli counters as well as a significant increase in the number of locally sourced products.
The new Chipping Norton store will open on 14 July and will form the blueprint for the development of new stores and refits in the future.
Ponsonby said: “We have a very high quality retail estate that has huge potential. To realise this potential, we need to reflect the different characteristics of our supermarket and convenience stores and give them dedicated focus to achieve their maximum potential.”
After conducting research amongst its members and shoppers, the Society is also planning to increase the range of Co-operative branded products in its food stores.
Ponsonby said: “We’re working more closely than ever with Federal Retail Trading Services to ensure that we fully exploit the strength of the Co-operative brand by having the best range and depth of products in our stores, in addition to our locally sourced produce that our customers expect.”