Bakery duties for Yvonne Brooks.
Fitting then that Gerry, a senior manager with lots of experience in various roles across the retail trade and now with around 18 months’ service at the Co-op, should supervise the full rebranding of this long-established community shop. “It is back to our future,” Gerry said, “but a modern future that allows the use of technology and not a quarterly bonus as in the past, so we all benefit.” He said that Cregagh Co-op is just under 3,000 square feet, with around half that again as storage and service facilities. It serves a range of customers from local pensioners using the in-store post office to professionals heading to and from work and is a healthy mix of basket and trolley shopping. “Produce, fresh fruit and veg are among the top sellers and the standards of newspapers and tobacco products lead the way, but there’s far more,” says Gerry. “The store only closes once a year on Christmas Day and is otherwise serving the local community from 7am to 11pm daily, weekends included. “There are 25 staff, almost all of whom are part time. Nearly all live locally too so they know their customers and their needs intimately and the major draw is the post office, for pensions and the full range
of services such as car road tax and even passport and travel money. “Lottery tickets, an in-store bakery for a range of freshly-baked goods are also very popular to our mostly local, walk-in trade and it’s a local hub, run by local people and serving the local community,” he added, revealing that one lady, Eleanor Welsh has well over 30 years’ experience with Co-op including more than 23 years in the Cregagh Road store. The store has scored well in secret-shopper surveys with 9.7 out of a possible 10 which is well ahead of the national average of 7.9. “That has been consistent for the past three years, so we must be doing something right,” says Gerry. While charitable giving is important, the emphasis has always been on value for money as well as service. The current £5 meal deal is a case in point, offering five different frozen products that represents a popular meal for very little outlay. At Christmas, it is supplemented by a £10 deal with turkey and ham and the whole festive meal on offer, cheap enough but also top quality. “This means that our core convenience business will continue to outperform the market,” he says.
Nationally, the Co-op has this year also announced its investment in lowering the price of over 200 of its own-brand British meat and poultry products. Its investment in lowering prices will this year top £200m and, by the end of the year, it will have reduced prices on over 1,000 everyday essentials. The price reductions in own-brand meat and poultry products follow the introduction of its 75p farmhouse loaf and the pruning of prices of over 100 lines of fresh fruit and vegetables, all seeing significant benefits in trade with the aim being to grow business and membership and to make the Co-op ‘special’ once again. “The Co-op is fundamentally different being owned by its customers so we can plough profits back to them,” says Gerry. “The previous branding was over a decade in use and a lot has happened in that time, so it is a good opportunity to reintroduce the new/old logo. “Cregagh Road has already benefitted from the nationwide investment of £1.3bn in rebuilding and transformation of all the stores. “In fact, we expect our new membership proposition and the return to the iconic clover-leaf logo as a focus of this heritage to give back £100m to members and their communities. “Our customers have been very positive about the rebranding and the philosophy of going back to being the Co-op they loved, with half of all our 70,000 colleagues already going through the associated training and awareness programme. “We are now in a position to look to a great autumn and winter trading period with our new branding firmly established. “Christmas will be our only day off in the year again, but then that’s the business we are in, at the heart of the community we serve. “I look forward to fulfilling all these expectations of expanded trade as well as fueling our three local charities at the same time. That’s the Co-operative way after all.”
Fruit and veg restocking by Kyle Moody.