THE Co-operative Group plans to invest more than £20m in new or refurbished food stores around Yorkshire this year, as it aims to become the UK’s top convenience retailer.
So far this year, Co-operative Food - which is part of the Co-operative Group - has refurbished 15 stores across Yorkshire. It has also opened four new stores in the region; at Dunscroft and Finningley, near Doncaster, as well as Kirkburton and Shipley in West Yorkshire.
A Co-operative Food spokesman said: “We are planning to open a further eight new stores this year and 17 in the first half of 2016. This represents a total investment of more than £20m.
Co-operative Food has also announced that it will lower prices from today, as it ploughs millions of pounds into cutting the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables in its 2,800 stores across the UK.
A spokesman said: “This latest investment by the Co-op will see some fresh produce prices halved.”
It includes a range of fresh fruit and vegetables and revolving offers on popular produce, starting with iceberg lettuce, carrots (500g) and whole cucumbers priced at 39p each. The move is part of a £125m price investment strategy by Co-operative Food. The group said it wants to cash in on consumers’ shift “to buying little, often and local”.
Steve Murrells, the retail chief executive, at The Co-operative Group, said: “Consumers are shopping differently, buying little, more frequently and, increasingly swapping the weekly shop for purchasing what they need, when they need it.
“In addition, food retailing remains highly competitive, and we have responded to provide customers with great prices and fresh, quality produce at each of our stores. This makes our price investment the biggest by a convenience retailer, providing consumers across the length and breadth of the UK with lower priced produce and helping them to keep shopping in their neighbourhood.”
In 2015, Co-operative Food is planning to add another 100 convenience stores. It will also carry out 255 store refurbishments this year.
Matthew Speight. the divisional managing director for the central region for Co-operative Food, said: “Yorkshire is the engine room for a regional organisation like the co-operative. This investment says a lot. We’re excited by our re-fit plans. These stores are the envy of our competitors.”
In April, the Co-operative Group posted a return to profit, but warned that its members will have to wait until 2018 for a resumption in dividend payments. The mutual, which last year reported a loss of £2.3bn due to the near collapse of its banking arm, benefited from the sale of its farms and pharmacy operations as it posted a net profit of £216m for 2014. Without the disposals the Co-op would, at best, have broken even, chief executive Richard Pennycook said. He added that the Co-op had completed the rescue phase of its turnaround, but said that a resumption of dividend payments was unlikely, until after the rebuilding phase is completed at the end of 2017. The mutual was brought to its knees by a series of blunders, including the takeover of Britannia building society in 2009, an ill-fated move that resulted in it losing control of its banking arm.
Mr Speight added: “It’s been a tough couple of years, but we’re coming out the other side.”