The Co-op is the UK’s sixth largest grocer and operates over 2,700 stores, the bulk of which are neighbourhood convenience stores.

It has been on a turnaround programme known as “Rescue, Rebuild and Renew” for the past few years, following a flagging performance and near-collapse in 2013. It entered the final phase of this turnaround in 2018 and the past few years have seen the Co-op performing strongly against its big four rivals and creating a Co-op that is “relevant and vital” to a new generation.

Food retail has continued to grow over the past three years, with total food sales coming in at £7.7bn in 2020 and like-for-likes up 6.9% . Co-op benefits from its small format and convenient locations, which together with its focus on sustainability and community causes give it purpose and brand relevance that ties in with consumer shopping trends.

Co-op’s retail growth has been driven by a growing wholesale operation and online expansion. At the end of 2020 it offered online delivery from more than 800 stores in partnership with delivery intermediaries, a service that continues to expand. A £45m investment into a new distribution centre, set to open in 2022, further supports these efforts.

Following a £1.3bn ‘Back to being Co-op’ rebrand to return the business to its roots, Co-op is now focused on ‘Building back better and different’, taking into account community involvement as well as hyperlocalism, value for money and the surge in online.

The acquisition of Nisa and a new wholesale agreement to supply the Costcutter Supermarket Group with Co-op’s own-branded products continues to open new opportunities and has expanded the scale of operations and supplier relations.

Innovation rating: 3

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