“Why Fuel for Growth is the right thing to do”

Some of you might have been to the Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities roadshows taking place across the UK where Steve Murrells and other members of the Executive explain our five-year plan. Or maybe you’ve read Steve’s blog post about our future ambitions.

If you were listening (or reading) carefully, ‘Fuel for Growth’ is a phrase you’ll be familiar with!

What is Fuel for Growth?

It’s all about taking inefficiency out of our organisation to invest in our offer for customers, members and colleagues. It’s about being leaner and more agile and about us working differently – it’s about being One Co-op.

The more savings we can find, the more we can improve our offer, develop new products and services, and invest in the things that are most important to our members.

To be honest, if I’d been asked to do a cost-cutting programme purely to drive the bottom line, then I would probably have said no.

While I’m delighted to be Accountable Lead for Fuel for Growth, I recognise it will be a huge challenge because of the amount of change happening across Co-op.

I didn’t take the decision lightly, but I’ve got an excellent team around me and believe this is critical and the right thing to do for our Co-op and members and customers.

Why it’s important for members and customers

We’re all aware that many of our customers find it difficult to make ends meet and look for great value to help them manage their money. Every pound we spend internally is a pound we don’t put into price or our customer offer, or into making life better for communities.

Why it’s so important to our future

We operate in really competitive markets. Food retail is one of the most competitive markets in the world. We’ve seen food costs go up, but we have to keep our prices down to match the competition and offer good value to our customers.

To compete well in this sector, you need volume and you need to be lean so that you can invest in price and customer offer. You’ll have already seen our £50m investment in bringing prices down at the beginning of the year which is making a real difference to our customers!

Likewise, the insurance market is highly competitive and customers have access to price comparisons  – so you have be price competitive to survive, which means you need to be efficient.

And in Funeralcare where we’re the market leader, we’re seeing greater price transparency (led by us) and growth in simple funerals and ‘direct to crem’. So again, increasing focus on price and therefore efficiency.

It won’t be easy

It will be hard and there’ll be tough choices and difficult decisions. We’ll need to remember why we’re doing this and make right choices for our Co-op. We’re different and we need to make sure that we keep those things that make us unique.

If we do this well, not only will we have reduced our costs to invest in growth, we’ll be a simpler and leaner Co-op working as one for our colleagues, customers and members.

Rachel Woodman
Director of Strategy and Transformation