Words: An update on our ventures

So that we can focus on our health and wellbeing venture, we’ve decided not to pursue local.co.uk further (the online marketplace we have been trialling since September). We always said that our new ventures would work in an ‘agile’ way (which means we try things, get feedback, and iterate on it based on evidence). That’s what’s happened with local.co.uk. We built it, tested it with colleagues, members and customers and made it better based on the things we were learning.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been planning our strategy for 2019 and the years ahead. We’ve been looking at where we’re spending our money and what we want to prioritise to get there. We’ve recently invested a lot in creating a repeat prescription service. And the decision has been made to solely focus on that and healthcare services that complement that.

We’ve spoken with our sellers on local.co.uk, and we’re keeping it open for new orders until 12th November. We’ll still provide support as any customer orders are finished and delivered.

Health and wellbeing progress

It’s getting exciting now, and very real for us before we launch our repeat prescription service in spring 2019. We’ve been recruiting pharmacists to work with us, and are sorting out the logistics for taking orders from, and delivering to, our customers.

Picture of the pharmacy storage in the Lea Green depot

Building the pharmacy at Lea Green depot (left: Mike Stephens, Lea Green General Manager, right: Tim Davies, Director of Ventures)

One of our goals with our new service is to make sure that, similar to our Food strategy, it’s convenient for customers. Managing repeat prescriptions through Dimec is a huge part of that. But we also want to make collecting the prescription as easy as possible too. So we’re looking at a secure and easy way for customers to pick up their prescription alongside their shopping in store that’s also safe for, and doesn’t impact, colleagues.

Lots still to do, but the early user research is encouraging. We think we can make a real difference in this market and reach a whole new group of customers for Co-op.

Tim Davies
Co-op Ventures Director

Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. Paperless……..

    Community Energy….


    Where I see the word Agility, I see failure. Wasted Investment.

    In our business where margins are wafer thin, failure is not an option.

    • If failure is not an option we might as well accept that in 5 years there won’t be a Co-op left.

      All of our markets are being disrupted and changing around us, so if we’re not prepared to have a go at innovation we’re doomed to a slow decline or being sold off piece by piece (oh wait ….)

      I think you’re wrong to consider the fault lies in Agile ways of working. Agility has led to some tremendous successes for the Co-op, and is now part of the way the Food business seeks to operate.

      I’d invite you to come along to one of the Introduction to Agile sessions at the Co-op and see what it’s all about?

  2. In our local pharmacy they are unable to hand out prescriptions when the pharmacist is not in the building.
    How would this work in our shop?
    Who would be responsible for storing, dispensing and checking customer details?
    What about complaints about missing items, wrong medications/dose etc.?
    Also controlled drugs have specific rules about storage and handling and some medications need to be kept at certain temperatures.
    I hope this works out, however i can’t see how there would be a way for this to be safe and not impact store colleagues. Staffing budgets are cut to the bone and no one i work with has the time or skills to deal with prescriptions.

    • Hi Tom,

      You are correct, there are lots of rules and regulations with pharmacy. Our Pharmacists will dispense the prescription from Lea Green and in the first instance customers will receive their medication in the post.

      Store collection will be trialed next year in a small number of stores. We are designing this service to be a safe locker type solution that customers can operate themselves without help from store colleagues.

      Hope that answers your concerns : )


  3. To quote from the article “We’ve recently invested a lot in creating a repeat prescription service. And the decision has been made to solely focus on that and healthcare services that complement that.”

    Sunk cost is always a powerful argument and it’s natural that people prefer the things they are familiar with rather than venturing into new territory.

    We have a lot of experience of distributing retail products after all and pharmacy is a business Tim is very familiar with.

    You’d probably make the same decision and stick firmly to your comfort zone if you were in his shoes.

  4. Maybe Tim felt it wasn’t something he needed to say but I think we need to acknowledge the work of the team that built local.co.uk – they did a great job, creating an e-commerce platform where we didn’t have one and personally recruiting sellers to use the site.

    It’s not their fault that a lot of money was being spent on buying Dimec and chasing a slice of an existing mature market rather than venturing into new territory.

  5. To quote the key part of the article “We’ve recently invested a lot in creating a repeat prescription service. And the decision has been made to solely focus on that and healthcare services that complement that.”

    This is entirely prudent and in line with the organisation’s ethos. “Sunk cost” is always a powerful argument.

    We’re also sticking to what we think we already know how to do and not venturing far outside our comfort zone of retail product distribution.

    This is understandable especially given the profiles of the decision-makers involved.

  6. During one of Steve Murrell’s updates at the start of the year he presented the 3 ventures we were looking at was Marketplace, Health and Co-op Money. Whilst Marketplace has come (and now gone) Health is progressing there as been no further update on Co-op Money. Is this still being developed or has this dropped off the plan as well?

  7. there are no products available under any category or subcategory on local.co.uk!!

    • Hi. Oh yes! I’ll highlight this to the team and see what’s what. Sorry if you were looking for something – it should still be open until 12 November. ^Kevin

      • Actually, this might be an issue with users of certain systems which the team will look into. Looking on the Co-op VDE, it’s as you say, nothing there… but if using a Mac off the network, it is fine and all products are still available. The team are looking into it. ^Kevin

  8. One of the reasons we sold our Pharmacy business was because the Government removed funding for prescriptions which made the pharmacy business a very difficult industry to make a profit in. As far as I’m aware they haven’t reinstated this funding.
    Also as we know from running a convenience food business delivering little and often can be very expensive and difficult to run logistically.
    Does the prescription business have a viable business case? I appreciate it is agile but it would a shame to see all this money and effort to go into this and for it to go the same way as local.co.uk

    • Hi Colleague.

      Yes, a viable business case has been approved by our Executive and Board.


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