Our Co-op Story: From January to April 2017

The final year of our Rebuild

The Co-op is back. Back to being Co-op. Back to putting members and their communities at the heart of everything we do. Our new Co-op Membership is up and running; the roll-out of our new look is well underway; and our colleagues have gone ‘Back to Being Co-op’ too.

We’ve started the final year of our three-year Rebuild having achieved great things already.

In 2017 our priority is to recruit a million new members, with half of them brand new shoppers to our Co-op.

Join us

We’re calling our membership recruitment campaign ‘Join us’ and it will build through the year as we continue to show the Co-op difference.

We’ll go beyond the Membership rewards of 5% and 1% and start to explain why being a Co-op allows us to be a different way of doing business.

We start the Join us campaign in January with new point of sale material in our Food stores and a cinema, digital and social media campaign that highlights the depth of the relationship we’re building with local communities.

The start of the campaign will include the work of the acclaimed British director Shane Meadows, who’s been working with us over the last few months to create a series of powerful and inspiring short films to illustrate our work with local causes. During Q1 we’ll also be using social media and digital to test which messages and channels work most effectively to recruit new members.

Colleagues will be playing a key role too. Sixty ‘Member Champions’, some of whom were our BCOP ‘hosts’, will be visiting stores around the country talking to our customers about membership and coaching our front line colleagues on how to start those membership conversations.

Colleagues from the Support Centre will also be ‘Lending a Hand’ in stores but this time with the emphasis on helping to recruit new members. Meanwhile, our Enterprise Leader community will be getting to know their own local causes better and will organise some l events to bring their Co-op communities together.

Strengthening communities

In the spring we can look forward to the first round of local cause payments from our 1% membership rewards. More than 4,000 causes will share in the first £4.5m raised through our members choosing the Co-op, and we’ll celebrate this moment in stores and branches across the country. We’ll be reporting on how the local causes are spending the money and the practical difference we’re making in their communities. That will be thousands of stories telling the Co-op difference.

We want to encourage our colleagues and members, to make an active decision about which local cause they want to support. This will become an important measure of membership engagement.


For the second wave of local cause selection we’ve invited projects to put themselves forward and as we develop how the scheme works we’ll give our members even more say in how causes are chosen for each community area.

Co-op voice

The financial rewards are only one part of our new Co-op Membership. Giving our members a way to shape and influence the business they own, and tell us easily what they think of Co-op products and services, is just as important. We also want to create new ways for our members to stay in touch with each other and grow networks of co-operation across the country.

Digital will be an important way in which we enable our members to talk to us and each other but we’ll also create a new generation of local Member Pioneers to give this work the attention and focus it needs.

Campaigning Co-op

At the end of 2016 we published our ground-breaking study into the causes of loneliness and social isolation. Our colleagues raised £4m in 2016 to help tackle loneliness and we’ve extended our fundraising target to raise £5m by March 2017.

During 2017 we’ll continue working with the British Red Cross at a national level to influence government thinking on this issue. We’ll also make sure our own colleagues are supported if they find themselves socially isolated. Meanwhile, within each of our business areas we’ll develop our operational response to help those isolated in our local communities.

We want tackling loneliness and social isolation to become one of the things the Co-op is famous for.

Ethical leadership

During 2017 we’ll start to re-establish our reputation as a leader in business ethics. Our new Co-op Way Policy committee, made up of Council members and business leaders, has begun a comprehensive review of all our ethical policies to make sure they are fit for purpose, transparent and achievable.

Our aim over the long-term is to take a leading position in many areas and promote best practice and encourage others to do the same. We’ll announce some of these initiatives in Q1 and share our comprehensive review of business ethics at our AGM in spring 2017.

Being Co-op

It’s vital that we use 2017 to make sure ‘Being Co-op’ for our colleagues becomes a permanent change in how we work together. Induction for new colleagues is being updated to reflect the four ‘Ways of being Co-op’ and all guidance and training for people managers will reflect this too.

During the first quarter of 2017 we will launch a revised set of colleague benefits and make sure there is greater access and understanding of these via the new colleague webpage coop.co.uk/colleagues The new webpage will also be a way of sharing with our colleagues the many examples of what we mean by ‘The Co-op Way’ with strong stories that illustrate our difference.


Our Businesses

In Food we’ll champion British farmers more than we’ve ever done in recent decades and make new commitments on Fairtrade. We’ll continue to invest in price reductions where we can, and all the time we’ll be growing our Food store estate. In 2017 we’ll invest a further £70m by opening another 100 new stores and creating 1,500 new jobs. The new stores will be spread throughout London, south-east England, Yorkshire and Scotland.

Our Insurance, Funeralcare and Legal businesses will all continue their transformation work setting them up for significant growth in the years to come.

Insurance will continue with the implementation of its new IT platform and improve its services and products as well as its campaigning activity.

Funeralcare will take its business proposition beyond customer expectations, encouraging advocacy, repeat business and setting the standards for the funeral care sector as a whole.

Legal will continue its integration of Collective Legal Solutions, improve its Probate offer and launch its digital Wills solution to the market. Funeralcare and Legal will work together to develop their later life planning strategy.

Digital, our newest business and support function, will pioneer new services for our members and customers and establish Manchester as a new Digital Hub for the UK.

Looking towards ‘Renew’

We’ve already been thinking beyond the Rebuild phase and into Renew.

This will be the time when we begin to look for new commercial opportunities and explore new partnerships for our Co-op. If the Co-op Pioneers were beginning today what social need would they identify as benefitting from a Co-op commercial solution? Rod Bulmer is going to be leading this work within the Group Executive.

We’re also looking at the best way for our family of businesses to work together for the benefit of our members.

We’ve decided to combine Funeralcare and Legal Services into a unified business headed by Richard Lancaster. Richard will move on to the Group Executive and report directly to Richard Pennycook. Matt Howells will continue to run Co-op Legal Services, as part of Richard Lancaster’s team, while also exploring the opportunities later life planning offers our members.

Later in the year Mark Summerfield will also report directly to Richard Pennycook as our Insurance business readies itself for the major advances its new IT platform will create.

The new business structure and reporting lines mean we will no longer describe Funeralcare, Insurance and Legal as being the ‘Consumer Services’ division of the our Co-op.


What next?

We expect 2017 to bring some new challenges. Inflation, partly driven by a weaker pound and increased prices for food commodities, is on the way. And growth across the UK economy is expected to slow. That means we have to be even more competitive as our members and customers start to feel the pinch.

In April we’ll announce our annual results. In line with our strategy, we expect to see a year on year reduction in profits, as we continue with our major Rebuild investment plans.

The first two years of Rebuild have involved a great deal of change for our Co-op. Our colleagues have been at the forefront of this change and their passion and commitment have been critical for all we have achieved so far.

The challenge for 2017 is to ensure that all the changes we have made are sustained over the long term. Having introduced our new Co-op Membership we must now significantly grow our membership and their desire to choose Co-op. Similarly, having introduced ‘Being Co-op’ we have to make sure it sticks and a lasting change in culture is achieved within our business. All of this requires compelling examples of what makes our Co-op and our Co-op colleagues different and special.

We’ll need to continue to improve all of the services we currently offer and some aspects of Rebuild may continue beyond the three years before we’re satisfied that everything we’ve been addressing is truly fixed.

As you can see there’s no slowing down of the momentum we’ve established over the last two years. Our progress has been rapid but there’s still much to be done and many opportunities to explore.

As colleagues you’ll continue to lead the way towards the completion of our Rebuild and this year you’ll inspire more and more people to join our Co-op family.

2017 is going to be another exciting and eventful year for us all.