Costcutter Groups’ Franchise stores really saw the benefit of the partnership with Co-op throughout the Covid-19 situation.

Co-op were quick to react to the changing situation and communicated daily, giving clear guidance to their company-owned stores on areas such as colleague safety, product restrictions to prevent stockpiling, product availability challenges, and social distancing advice backed up with the appropriate POS sent to stores to implement. The Franchise stores received the same communications so benefitted from the Groups approach and speed of implementation in-stores.

The stores received regular support and guidance from both Co-op and Costcutter teams to enable them to operate their stores in a safe manner for both their store colleagues as well as shoppers. All aspects of the customer-journey through the store were considered from advice on how to manage queues outside the store through to how often to sanitise the AST’s (self check-outs).

Both Co-op and Costcutter distributed items of PPE and hand sanitiser to the stores, and Co-op rapidly arranged the installation of screens at all till points by 11th April to further protect the store colleagues and shoppers.

As we know shoppers valued being able to shop locally more than ever before, and the strength of the Co-op brand, assured them of the environment they were shopping in – as a result we saw an increase in the number of shoppers applying to the Co-op Membership scheme across all Franchise stores.

The importance of the local shop in the community has never been more important, and all stores actively supported local events such as VE Day celebrations and support for NHS workers. The Barrow store became the collection hub for protective gowns for NHS workers that were being made by local residents.

 

 

Our Franchise stores were proud to be part of and benefitted from the positive Co-op adverts and messaging that were well received by shoppers in the local communities they serve, in terms of ‘local heroes’, ‘key workers’ ‘feeding the nation’, and support for the Fareshare charity.

Operating the stores and keeping them trading was a challenge at certain times due to the unprecedented operational challenges that this situation caused. The simplicity and structure of the Franchise operating model demonstrated its value during this period – Co-op quickly ‘turned off’ the need to complete any non-essential daily tasks allowing the store teams to focus on completing the important basics with the safety of their colleagues and the shoppers at the forefront of everything.

In the franchise store in Barrow on Humber, the store management team were following self-isolation guidance and were able to adapt to home-working and still check on key tasks remotely, as Co-op made systems available as an app for their personal devices. The simplicity of the model also made it easy to up-skill store colleagues to be able to complete basic tasks when they were covering for other colleagues or store management. Store Manager Nina Clark says:

Store Manager Nina Clark says:

"“I am really proud of my team in Barrow who have been so supportive in assisting in running the store whilst I’ve been forced to work from home. Although Co-op’s technology has made it easier for me to still manage the store whilst working remotely. They have provided great service to our local customers as well as being extremely pro-active in supporting the local community through these difficult times.”"

Co-op Barrow

Similarly, in the Whitkirk franchise store, CSG head office colleagues were able to assist in store following colleague and management absences, made possible by the simple operating model and clear communications from Co-op. Franchise Co-ordinator Laura Turner says:

Having never worked in a Co-op, or with the instore processes in the past, stepping in to help cover the Store Manager at the Whitkirk store should have been a daunting task. However the general ease of Co-op’s processes, such as push ordering for example, made it simple to pick up and easy to understand. The knowledge held by the colleagues in store was both impressive and invaluable and I couldn’t thank the store team enough for all their help and guidance. Dawn, the store manager, is an absolute fountain of knowledge. Throughout COVID the support available to the stores has been and continues to be exceptional, whether it be through weekly operational calls or the quick reactions of both CSG and Co-op to put protection in place for both store colleagues and customers.”

The experience and expertise of the Co-op Supply Chain also supported the stores’ auto-replenishment systems to combat product availability challenges – stock levels of key lines / essential items were quickly amended to maintain on-shelf availability and to ensure fair share of supply across all Co-op stores.

In line with the whole convenience sector, our Franchise stores have seen a sharp increase in footfall and basket spend since the onset of the Covid-19 situation. Whilst the location of the stores has been a big factor in this, trust in the quality and welfare standards of the Co-op brand, as well as the operating standards the Franchise model maintains, have played a major role in the eyes of the shopper.

 

Guiseley Co-op Franchise Store Manager Sean Hartley said:

"“My team at Guiseley have been fantastic coping with the various challenges we’ve had during the current situation. We have tried to remain a key part of the local community and provide a good level of service to our local customers, as well as supporting local NHS workers and events such as VE Day. Our team are really appreciative of the initiatives Costcutter and Co-op have worked together to introduce which support colleagues such as a discount scheme and vouchers.”"

Co-op Franchisee Guiseley

Shopper feedback has also been largely positive, as we have seen the stores becoming even more valued in their local communities. Some examples of customer comments include:

“Congratulations and thanks Co-op Barrow on Humber, North Lincs Village Store.  Super team at the village store. Thanks and respect for their hard work, enthusiasm and energy. They are a credit to you and a superb asset to the village. They deserve special recognition and everyone’s thanks.”

“Please pass on my thanks to the young lady working in the Barrow upon Humber Co-op. I visited on Mothering Sunday to purchase a Mother’s Day card. Unfortunately the store had sold out. The lady did the kindest thing ever and gave me her own card. What a fabulous and king gesture. You are one lucky store having a lady like that work for you.”

“I just want to say a massive thank you on behalf of my elderly grandparents. They're both in their 80s and my grandmother has recently gone through chemoradiotherapy for cancer. So, when coronavirus came along it was imperative that they didn’t go out. I do their shopping for them but every day they went to their local Co-op in Whitkirk which is across the road to buy a Daily Mail. I was really frightened and I still am about either of them catching it. I approached the manager in the Co-op and asked a massive favour of them-if I paid up front for their papers each week could they possibly Bob one in the letterbox and they said absolutely no problem. I was overjoyed. Potentially this could save their life. A paper may seem a trivial thing to me or yourself but to my deaf grandparents it’s a lifeline. They rely on it to know what’s going on in the outside world. At times like this I really appreciate what they are doing for them and I just want to say a massive THANK YOU.”

Our Franchise stores have been well-supported by Co-op and Costcutter working together during the current situation – the Franchise operating model has ensured consistency and a simplified operation which has been backed up with clear guidance on how to operate stores in a safe manner and support colleague welling.

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