STORE FOCUS Gerry Johnston, manager of Co-op Cregagh Road, Belfast.
Co-op Cregagh Road, Belfast Community has always been at the heart of the co-operative organisation and September marks a UK-wide rebranding of stores, as well as a modern day return to giving customers a ‘share’ in profits. By Brian McCalden.
he Co-op’s intention is to return to paying the once traditional dividend again, and make the rewards for members who shop with the Co-op more meaningful and community-focused. The countrywide rebranding is running in parallel with the reward initiative, and Belfast’s Cregagh Road store is one of the first to get the new look, with Store Manager Gerry Johnston anxious to point out that the rather familiar new logo in fact represents the new ethos of ‘Back to our Future’.
The logo is in fact the same as was used decades ago, and represents a return to those core values. Gerry explained that, from September, customers will get the opportunity for a new membership card which pays them a full 5% bonus on all their Co-op own-brand shopping and services. Crucially though, explained Gerry, a further 1% is also going to charity, and specifically local charities in the immediate vicinity of each store. Gerry and long-serving staff member Eleanor Welsh are pictured with the popular meal deal.
Gerry and his staff are already running fundraisers for charity, with Gerry, who runs several miles weekly anyway before coming to work, literally taking such fundraising in his stride. “We held an event for the British Red Cross at the Cregagh Road store, where I ran before work or static cycled a minimum of five kilometers to raise cash in store every day in the month of May. Other staff contributed their time and efforts as well,” says Gerry. “We raised over £1,000, so we are really looking forward to helping our three local charities benefit from the new 1% bonus that really puts the community back at the heart of the Co-op business.” Few stores could be better placed to be the vanguard of the ‘new’ identity given its history and longevity. There has been a Co-op store on the current site on the Cregagh Road since the Second World War with one customer, who has lived all his life in the neighboring street, recalling how a German bomb devastated part of the area during the Blitz but the Co-op carried on. Of course, like the thousands of other traders in business during the Province’s infamous Troubles, this sense of carrying on regardless shone through again during those dark days too.