Magazine article Marketing

Is Co-Op Ethos out of Date?

Magazine article Marketing

Is Co-Op Ethos out of Date?

Article excerpt

Co-operative retailing has been shaken by its recent siege. But how long can the CWS remain an independent force in the current retail climate.

The Co-operative Wholesale Society last week successfully halted the bid by City raider Andrew Regan to buy it and then strip it.

But the battle has raised serious questions regarding the business and brand of the 150-year-old UK Co-operative movement. If it is to continue as one of the last bastions of independent mutuality, it will have to shake off its image as the sick man of UK retailing.

A recent report by analyst Corporate Intelligence confirms this: "Its problem is that consumers' habits are dictated by price, quality and convenience and, in these respects, the movement has lost touch with modern grocery retailers."

Co-op food sales have recorded minimal growth in recent years, while the market has been growing at a rate of 6% per annum.

Had Regan won, he would have secured an empire encompassing shops and farms and the Co-op name - a brand that has been underexploited by a lack of marketing.

Robert Clark at Corporate Intelligence says marketing is just one problem: "The Co-op's natural customer - traditionally the C2s, Ds and Es - are now being better served by hard discounters such as Aldi and Netto. I am not too sure how much the values to which the Co-op adheres are relevant to the customer of today."

Over the years the Co-op has made little of its values as an ethical retailer, opting instead for price and promotional advertising with a media spend dwarfed by its rivals.

In a recent interview, a senior CWS executive admitted the Co-op has been far from vocal in broadcasting its values, hinting that it should take its cue from the Co-operative Bank's advertising.

"We haven't made enough of our corporate values and we'll be doing more of that in the future to unite the Co-op brand," said Bill Shannon, head of corporate affairs. …

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