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Co-op meeting report

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

"We've failed dismally but it's not the fault of the staff at the store." Tim Colman, Co-op Regional Manager

After dozens of HebWeb correspondents raised issues about the Co-op supermarket in a recent Forum thread, a meeting was called by the Co-op to listen to its customers.

Yesterday, around 30 people turned out on a very rainy, November evening to question the regional manager, Tim Colman of the Coop group about our Hebden Bridge supermarket. He was joined by managers from the local store.

Although most of those present expressed their criticisms and frustrations with how the Co-op is managed, all those who spoke want the Co-op to improve and succeed, and even become a model for other supermarkets to follow. There was general recognition that there was a massive opportunity if only the Co-op were prepared to improve and adapt.

"Every town is unique. Hebden Bridge is more unique than most." Tim Colman, Co-op Regional Manager

One general point which was made was that the Co-op relies too much on central ordering and doesn't adapt to what the different local communities want. Mr Colman conceded: "Every town is unique. Hebden Bridge is more unique than most."

There were complaints that the Co-op failed to offer an adequate range of vegetarian, organic and local food which many people in our area would buy if they had the choice. Why was there such a limited range of Suma wholefoods?

Mr Colman was conceded that the Co-op had failed to exploit the potential of the market they have on their doorstep. Many in the audience pointed that they were forced to go to Todmorden and Halifax for everyday items which should be available in the Co-op.

Another general point which was widely made was that if Oasis and other supermarkets can always keep its shelves full, why can't the Coop. There were times when only 20% of the vegetable and fruit stalls were full. Again, it was conceded that there had been warehouse problems which were being dealt with. There had been a recent change of depot. New systems are being piloted. Tim Colman admitted, "We've failed dismally but it's not the fault of the staff at the store."

Other points raised:

  • At the time of inspection, suddenly the shelves were full.
  • The helpfulness and friendliness of the staff.
  • Unclear and/or misleading price tickets
  • Why no half litre cartons of milk any more?
  • Newspapers and magazines: are these really necessary when the town already has 2 newsagents?
  • The biggest challenge was in keeping evening and weekend availability
  • There's a big rush at 8.30am and no tills opens; this will change, we were promised.
  • There are large queues at certain times such as the end of the school day; yet only one till is open.
  • There should be larger labels for the visually handicapped.
  • Why no cycle racks?
  • The Co-op need to tell people when things go wrong; if there has been a delivery failure, let the customers know.
  • The staff often don't know about the leaflets customers receive through their letterboxes outlining special offers.

Tim Colman promised he would be keeping an eye on our Co-op and is going to re-introduce the Suggestion Box. He also conceded many of the points raised and made many promises that things will be put right. If these promises aren't kept, we will be able to ask him about them at the next meeting in three months' time.

However, many of these promises have been made before - see HebWeb news report of a similar meeting held in April 2008.

See also:

HebWeb Forum: Co-op supermarket

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