News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Co-op Corners the Market

Glad to see that Britain's leading co-operative business is not beyond sticking a few signs on lampposts around Westbury to advertise the launch of its new store.

With the opening of the new Co-op store in Carlton Court, (a development predicted on this blog in April 2008, thank you) the new owners of the Somerfield brand have skillfully established themselves as the leading food retail outlet in the local area. With Co-op stores in Stoke Lane, Canford Road and Crow Lane, Henbury (not to mention the Co-op in Station Road which I always pass when taking the bumpy route to Cribbs Causeway) local shoppers are now literally surrounded by the Co-op brand - including entering the newly-painted car park accessed through Co-op-branded pendants.

The grand opening this week was full of bunting, balloons and face painting and was, according to one local resident, "The most exciting thing that has ever happened in Westbury on Trym." Well, that particular resident has obviously never been to the cake sale at the Methodist Church Hall on a Friday morning or the WOT Society illustrated talk on seaweed collecting, but, nonetheless, I take her point that the event was a lively addition to the village's summer programme.

Britain's fifth-largest food retailer seems to have a policy of focusing on the local shopping market by concentrating its efforts on small to medium size stores rather than trying to compete directly with ASDA or Tesco. As a co-operative, it is also unique in having no share holders but is owned entirely by its members, who receive a share of the company's profits twice a year relative to their purchasing within the Co-op group and to the overall profitability of the group within that year. Membership costs £1.

The Co-op also sells more Fairtrade products than any other supermarket. Really, the Co-op is a bit like Everton FC - everyone's second favourite team.

Two developments that also caught my eye through the forest of green balloons, which may or may not be related. One was the closure of the Finest store opposite the new Co-op. My guess is that the company has reverted to its original focus on wholesale and corporate sales - though I might be wrong. The Snackology website is quiet on the issue. The second development is that the fruit and veg store in Carlton Court has started selling fresh milk for about 30p cheaper for four litres than its large neighbour opposite.

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