By John McNeill, Nisa COO

There’s no doubt that the environment we’re operating in is challenging, and we’re so proud of our strong performance at Nisa. Customers are rediscovering their local shops, and our Nisa partners and colleagues have been doing an incredible job in making sure we give them the best possible service.

Our relationship with our partners and suppliers is absolutely key to our business – developing and supporting the partners we have, and recruiting new ones – by engaging them with our fantastic proposition and service, and the uniqueness of our Co-op own brand offering.

But we have to adapt, and so this year, our usual 2-day conference at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire moved, like everything in 2020, to an online, virtual expo.

It was a huge challenge to build a remote event that usually has so much theatre and face to face engagement. We knew the experience would be hugely different to any previous Nisa Expo, but we were determined to make sure retailers and suppliers were still able to get real benefit. And thanks to a great collaborative effort our first virtual Expo was a resounding success.

We’ve had fantastic feedback, and have had thousands of visitors, video appointments, and views. We still managed to unveil our brand new Nisa Express store format (using a virtual tour of the model store built at our Partner Support Centre), launch a new eLearning platform as a bespoke training facility for Nisa retailers, kick-start our Co-op own brand value campaign to drive sales to Nisa partners, and hold our annual award ceremony to recognise Nisa partners and suppliers for retailing excellence. We signed up new stores to join Nisa, and had lots of interest in our Co-op Franchise proposition, and our virtual supplier stands showcased new product development.

The category talks, which covered frozen, Beers Wines and Spirits, Meals and Value, were delivered in partnership with the Co-op heads of category, covering key emerging trends. We also held panel discussions on supporting partners, how suppliers were coping with Covid, and Nisa partners and colleagues talking about the impact and how shops could be successful and grow in the new world.

The opportunity to interact directly with our partners, including through our Expo, is what helps us serve our partners’ needs.  The expo really brings to life how, by working together, Nisa helps translate Co-op’s convenience expertise to the wholesale market – we make the connections with independent partners and businesses and grow Co-op reach in new communities, something that couldn’t be reached through retail alone. Despite the challenging circumstances, we’ve been able to generate a huge amount of engagement and interaction that would otherwise have been impossible with the current restrictions. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved, and am excited to see our businesses grow together.