The Co-op’s most frequent food shoppers are now less likely to shop there, as a result of the recent scandals that have engulfed the group.
An exclusive poll for Retail Week by ICM Research revealed that one in five people who shop at The Co-op Food stores at least once a week were less likely to shop there as a result. This rises to one in four people who shop there more than once a week.
ICM research director Amanda Clack said: “We were shocked to see there has been this impact for the regular Co-operative customers. The recent controversies have clearly had a far reaching ripple effect throughout the business and the brand needs to do a lot to reinstall trust again.”
The findings come ahead of a crucial AGM vote this weekend, on reform proposals put forward by Lord Myners. It emerged this week that the largest independent Co-op society, the Midcounties, which has previously been vocal about its reform concerns, plans to back the resolution.
Clack said The Co-op’s negative perception is a big threat to a business based on trust, fair trade and ethics. And for regular food shoppers, who have bought into the brand as a whole, it is not isolated to just the banking arm. “I wouldn’t expect people to suddenly reject shopping there completely but it does mean that for people having bought into the company’s brand identity and principles it is having an impact,” Clack added.
In response to the poll’s findings, a spokesman for The Co-operative said: “We respect that The Co-op’s reputation needs to be rebuilt and that food has a major role to play in this. We are not hiding away from the fact that it has been a difficult period, but we are confident we will be able to weather the storm and that the changes we have planned will lead the charge to recovery.”
He said customers have responded positively to a £100m investment in bringing everyday prices down and a major store refit has led to double-digit sales growth in its pilot 32 stores. He also said the grocer was developing a “more compelling customer proposition” including its Love By Us range and additional product launches are planned for the second half of the year.
“I genuinely believe that regular food customers will change their minds and come back to the brand when they experience these changes in store,” he added.