It’s a year ago since I sat down and talked about how we wanted to turn the Support Centre into a place that properly ‘supports’ colleagues in store through changes and challenges.

Change is hard and unsettling (and in our case, fast!) but we’re working hard to share our plans with colleagues to help them understand what’s coming and why we’re doing it.

Everything we’re doing is for the benefit of colleagues, customers and communities  – from improving safety to driving sales. This will help us achieve our ambition: Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities.

We’re transforming the way we run our stores for customers and members, but more importantly make things simpler for colleagues in store.

We’re going to carry on opening new stores, using technology to make shopping even more convenient.

I know it’s tough in stores – and we haven’t fixed everything yet but we’re not just talking, we’re doing. We’re not afraid to get things wrong too – it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.

This isn’t a one-year journey – it’s a total re-wiring of convenience. But we’ve already achieved a lot in the last year.

Everything we’re trying and testing is built for colleagues by colleagues, who’ve been involved from the start. I can’t thank you enough for your patience, honesty and support.

Colleague with handheld terminal


We’re introducing new technology to help colleagues and customers.

Tablets: All stores will have tablets by the end of the summer. It’s a great tablet with durable casing and works together really well with the new hand held terminals (HHT) which all stores will have by November. This will completely change the way colleagues work.

Headsets: We’re still working out when we’ll be able to roll these out to all stores but we’ve tested them and they’re definitely something we’re going to use in the near future. They’ll help so much with colleagues feeling less alone on the shop floor.

Pay on your phone: You might have seen some of the news stories on this. We’re trialling a new app in our Support Centre store which allows customers to avoid paying at the till altogether and use their own phone. There isn’t another retailer in the UK doing this.

Working with Co-op Digital – an example of One Co-op

We’ve also been working with our Digital team on some online tools to help colleagues. These will be on the tablets in store.

Tablet 2

Task manager is a digital way to organise tasks. If you can take away all these tasks from someone’s head, everyone can share – it becomes more of a team effort. You can also start to prioritise those tasks.

Shifts is a digital service you can access on your phone to help colleagues see which days they’re working, book holidays and ask for extra shifts. Managers can also sort their colleagues’ schedules. At the moment 600 colleagues are testing and everyone loves it. That will go live in April for all stores.

My schedule

How do I? is one single source of information to help colleagues find out how to do things in store. It’s already getting 10,000 hits a week and has cut down calls by 25% in our call centre.

Systems and processes

Capping shelves (top shelf for products normally stored in the warehouse): This will help with availability because you’ve got the product right above and the customer can see it. Feedback has been really strong on this. It’s going into 1,300 stores at first.

Gap scan (counting what products are missing): We’re doing more to simplify our processes to make sure we only focus on those things that have a real benefit to customer availability and sales. That’s where we’ve got to get to.

Handling cash: We’re looking at ‘close-loop cash systems’ where instead of touching cash six times you touch it once or twice. We can create a safer environment for colleagues if we do it differently.

Point of sale changes: We want to have more time to have a good conversation with the customer, so we’re reducing point of sale activity wherever we can. We started with the bakery – a lot less stickers and rather than spending time putting bits of plastic up, let’s concentrate on the in-store fixture availability.

We’re changing the way we run our stores and in some it’s a fact we’ll need less hours. Our estate isn’t a one-size fits all and these solutions won’t apply equally in all stores but we’re doing all we can to make sure we succeed as a retailer for the long-term.

Store of the future

The changes you’ll see in stores soon aren’t the only things we’re working on. There’s a team in a bunker at our Support Centre looking at what technology (voice, camera and artificial intelligence) we could use in the future to make sure we’re the leaders in convenience over the next decade and beyond.

But we’re putting just as much work into improving our stores for today.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on everything that’s happening. Please email and let us know.

Matthew Speight
Retail Director Support Centre

Join the conversation! 25 Comments

  1. There is a reason why no other UK retailer is doing the pay by your phone idea, it’s risky and unsafe. You’re bound to get customers that will deliberately take advantage of Pay by Phone and argue back at staff saying that they’ve already paid for it. We will have no evidence of them not paying for it unless it’s by CCTV which is unlikely to pinpoint, especially if all they have to do is point their phone at a barcode but not scan it. I’d hate to see stores gain a bigger leakage because of this and have an excuse of ‘It saves time’. All the other ideas are great because it’s helping staff do their jobs quicker and allows them to help customers and talk to them about the offers, but not pay by your phone.

    • Completely agree. I think we’re trying to be amazon with its till-free shops. But they have thousands of sensors in their shops, and you have to check in and out. They know who every single person is. It is near-on impossible to steal from there. People have tested it. I almost wish this was every shop in the uk – we’d wipe out shoplifting overnight. But it will never be. Allowing people to walk around scanning stuff on their phones is a minefield and would be extremely difficult to manage.

      • I’ve been wondering about this ever since I heard of it. Without having an extremely hi-tech checking in/out system as mentioned, I can’t see how this won’t lead to more theft, but potentially I am missing something glaringly obvious about how this system works?

  2. The hackathon’s are a great way to get colleagues involved in our change process. Is there a date set for the next one?

  3. Hi! Question about the tablets – will these be something just for colleagues to use or is there a potential for these to be used with customers? In the interest of being One Co-op could our customers use the tablets to sign up to membership, get an Insurance quote, or look up Funeral plans, for example?

    • Hi Louisa. These are just for colleagues to use to make it easier to do their jobs – not for customers. But I’ll feed back your comment to the team. Thanks ^Rachel

      • IT would be good to be able to sign up certain customers, iie elderly and we have one man that can’t read or write, we are waiting for him to bring in his address so we can phone up for him

  4. Exciting times ahead. Bring it on!

  5. Are we going to have a go to page on ‘How Do I?’ for all the digital apps we are currently using that help us run our stores?
    It would be great to have a page that suggests the apps we are currently using to benefit our colleagues and get everyone up and running straight away.
    HCM Cloud – for MYHR
    Lifeworks – For work/personal assistance
    SMG360 – YSYS
    Shifts – Scheduling
    Coop Membership/Benefits – for news about our business and colleagues benefits.
    etc etc

    Thanks and all the best

    • What we need is a method whereby people can log into all these various apps from a central interface. Shifts, HCM Cloud and Lifeworks benefit everyone in a Food store, (Let alone adding in SMG360, MicroLise, Emails, TARA etc) but in many instances the login process can be tortuous, and with different passwords for each site it’s easy to lose track of what is what.
      I’m all for this use of relevant and up to date technology, but lets make it easy to access on our personal devices, or the uplift will not be as good as it could be.

    • Hi Kevin. ‘How do I’ is about giving information that relates to ‘how I run my store’. So all of the mentioned ‘apps’ have content already included in ‘How do I’ other than member/colleague benefits. Co-op are also working on a Colleague site where everything will sit. One gateway to all these things. Hope that helps. Thanks ^Rachel

  6. the pay on your phone app is ace!

  7. i have seen the capping shelves in oyr locsl pound land and it does look really untidy. hopefully our top shelf storage system wont.

  8. What a way for the co-op to go forward. Love that the customers will be the important people and will have more time. Customers need to be listened to. I will look forward to the great changes that co-op are bringing out over the months and will be proud to be part of it. Co-op will not just be good it will be great.

  9. In the spirit of “it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it” maybe Matthew would like to comment on what has been learnt about ways of working and how they have had to change to deliver the fast pace he refers to.

    It has been a painful journey for the project teams having to work at pace while the governance processes are not aligned to that pace and we’ve learnt a lot about how we don’t always make it easy for ourselves to achieve the tempo we desire.

    Trusting the teams doing the work to make intelligent decisions has been something that has improved over the life of the projects.

    It’s been an important learning. Let’s give credit where it’s due.

    • I agree. It’s been a great year for coop as we continue to improve and look to the future we can always look to be more effective and it sounds like you have thoughts on how this can be achieved. Why not email with your ideas

  10. I like to hear how ideas are ‘built for colleagues by colleagues’ rather than highly paid, ‘expert’ consultants who then deliver hardly anything.
    We do still talk about certain things as if they’re one off project though. E.g. Isn’t making a central office better support stores a constant thing every day, not something that it ‘turns into’ after a project?

    • Good point Neil.

      A well-embedded continuous improvement culture could make all the difference and save us a lot of consultants’ fees.

      It worked for Paul Gerrard when he headed up a division of HMRC, maybe we could learn from his good experience.

    • Hi Neil, if you want to get involved with the various sessions we run for colleagues, please email and we can invite you along to our next event. Thanks

  11. Will the “Shifts” service be available for support centre staff also?
    I ask as some teams here also start at different times each day with no fixed pattern to the times/days.
    It would be quite helpful.

    • Hi Shift question. Right now the Shift digital service has been created specifically for food store colleagues. I’ll certainly feed back your comment to the team though. Thanks ^Rachel

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