By Mahalia Flasz, Team Leader, Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) store
It’s been a rollercoaster year with the local and national lockdowns, and they’ve had a huge impact on all of us. It’s been particularly challenging for students, who’ve had to lock down whilst away from home – sometimes for the first time.
So it’s been wonderful to be part of the Co-op franchise store at Newcastle University Students’ Union and see first hand how we’ve been able make a difference and support the student population when it’s been so needed.
I started working here as a Customer Team Member half way through my Masters in Environmental Geosciences. I’d always liked the idea of working on campus because of the friendly and inclusive environment. Our store team is really diverse, and includes nice colleagues from other Co-op stores all over the country who moved into our franchise store to help us get set up and running. Working throughout lockdown with such a strong team helped me gain new skills and I quickly progressed to become a Team Leader.
Our store location is perfect and being at the heart of the campus is a huge mutual benefit. Thanks to membership, students are motivated to support their local community just through their shopping – being able to see the difference they can make is a real boost.
I’m really active on social media so I jumped at the chance to take responsibility for the store’s online presence. The university have provided thousands of £50 vouchers to students who were self-isolating so I had plenty of opportunity to share how we were preparing care packs, along with picking, prepping and packing their Deliveroo orders. It’s been so rewarding to be able to update everyone in real time about what we’re doing as a store to help students through the pandemic, and I was recognised as the number one user on Social Hub. I’d really encourage you to log on and use it, it’s the perfect tool to connect with the wider community.
At the end of October, a new franchise store also opened at Stirling University. It’s really unique to be able to have a Co-op shop on the campus, and this new one joins our existing university stores in Newcastle, Kent, Leeds and Oxford. It’s so unique to have a Co-op shop on site at the universities, its really exciting times. Last year an exclusive franchise agreement was signed with NUS to open Co-op stores across NUS member sites, helping to reach more students. It’s a great step forward to engage more young people, who are hugely important to us, and build a new era of Co-op fans.
Through working in a franchise store, I’ve gained a deeper understanding and a new outlook on what Co-op stands for. It’s incredible to work for a business where issues including Fairtrade, sustainability and community are so central, and sharing those values is certainly one of the reasons I’m proud of where I work and I’d love to pursue my long term career at Co-op.
Georgina Brennan, Franchise Brand and Account Manager added:
“My role involves a lot of close contact with the teams on site on the university campuses. Mahalia has been a real advocate for all of the great work that’s been going on behind the scenes. I’m really proud to see just how much we’ve all pulled together to support our students and their wider communities this year.”