Your Questions

Our members have been getting in touch. If you have a question, let us know here.

Does the Society wish to, or feel it is financially viable to, make a new store acquisition in the coming year?"- Michael

The Society’s strategy continues to be to grow the business. Members will have seen in recent years we have grown our Society through acquisition or occasionally through ‘cold starts’ – an example of which would be The Sorrells in Stanford-le-hope. We continue to actively look for new acquisitions, and in 2022 we will see a new funeral branch joining our estate, covering Basildon.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Why is the Society using Snappy Shopper to home deliver food as it has always opposed deliveries of this type?" – Malcolm

When we’ve considered online delivery options in the past, we’ve always had to fund the development of the digital platform ourselves in order to have a way to take the orders, process them and manage the delivery. The cost of that would have been prohibitive, and on that basis we’ve never considered it a financially viable proposition. However, with the development of Snappy Shopper and similar platforms, all we have to do is provide the stock and the people to service the orders. That being said, it isn’t a trading activity that we expect to break even on overnight and there is a rate of deliveries we need to meet to make sure the service is a success.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Is a food option within the department stores being considered?" – Mr. Shepherd

The simple answer is no. It has been debated in the boardroom, and has been many times. There are two reasons why; firstly, the investment involved to put a food operation into either store. Secondly is the evidence of past experiences. If we look at Braintree Quadrant, it had a food operation in there up until 2000 and it was phenomenally loss-making and I have no wish to repeat that. Convenience stores historically do far better on neighbourhood estates. Sadly, when you get to town and city centres – particularly when you get to 7pm or even before – you do lose your trade. We saw that when we had a store in the High Chelmer shopping centre in Chelmsford. We couldn’t make the sales stack up, and if anything the footfall on that side of town is higher than the end that Chelmsford Quadrant sits on.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Chelmsford Star’s Co-op Funeral Directors took a leading position by adopting the ICA’s co-op marque in the funeral business. Now other Society’s are adopting the marque in their food stores. Will Chelmsford Star consider putting the ICA logo above their food stores?" – Steven

We undertook a piece of work recently that was designed to bring together our brands. Members will know we trade our food under “the co-operative”, we trade funerals under the international co-operative marque, we trade travel under “co-operative travel” and departments stores under “Quadrant”. We recognise that we need to bring these together and work has been done on how we can do that. There are no plans at the moment to bring the food stores together under the ICA marque just yet, however the Board have indicated this is something they’d like us to look at over the next few years.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Why did CSCS start doing home delivery with food after previously saying they wouldn’t, and how is the Snappy Shopper partnership working out?”

As instant home delivery platforms are so widely used these days, more and more convenience retailers are now offering this service; therefore CSCS felt it would be remiss not to open itself up to this market despite it not being particularly profitable. Having partnered with Snappy Shopper, this provided us with a ready-made platform for which we pay a percentage of the turnover and have invested in staff and vehicles. Because of this investment, we are not making a profit from this service at present - it is a work in progress and we cannot yet say for certain what the future will hold for this aspect of the business. However, it is fair to say that there is plenty more that can be done to turn it into a fruitful prospect in the long term.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

CSCS have done well to reduce their carbon emissions. Is this attributed at all to the recent investments in energy saving systems such as solar panels?”

The reduction in emissions over the last year is not linked to the introduction of solar panels to our Danbury store; these weren’t commissioned until earlier this year, so we have not yet had time to monitor any benefits in regard to this. The reduction in emissions is more to do with long-term investments over the last 5-6 years, for example fitting stores with doored fridges, LED lighting and voltage optimisation, for which we aim to have in every store by the end of this year. While we believe we have fully utilised the technology available to us, we can still do more to educate employees to be mindful of their energy consumption both in the workplace and at home.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Are there any implications for CSCS arising from the Morrisons acquisition of McColl’s?”

It’s too early to tell what this might mean for us, however the obvious implication is that Morrison’s will be a far better operator in the convenience sector than McColl’s, due to their wide branded range and improved processes and controls. So where they are able to open stores, this would of course generate threat to other convenience retailers in that area. However, many of the stores they have acquired may not be used due to location or their size – typically multiple retailers have favoured stores of between 2500 square feet to 3000 square feet, whereas CSCS are able to utilise stores under that size and make a profit. So where there may be McColl’s sites unusable by Morrisons, this is actually a potential acquisition opportunity.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

What opportunities do you see for growing sales across the society in coming years?”

The changes in lifestyle over the last two years have seen more of a focus on leisure time. Now that the pandemic is easing off, people want to spend less time doing non-leisure tasks, which we are currently working on how to utilise. Snappy shopper may well be a part of this, as well as digital trading, however we are looking for every opportunity going forward.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Will CSCS continue to use and develop the ICA branding?”

At the moment, we are only using the international branding for our funeral businesses. Before the pandemic broke, there had been discussions around extending this to the other businesses such as food and travel, however this has since been put on the back burner. Ultimately the goal is to tie our four businesses together to make them recognisable as a society. The discussion is certainly still on the agenda for the future; however the main concern right now is to get membership figures back to where they were before we continue with any changes to branding.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Can you tell us about the high staff turnover in your stores, and what you are doing to support staff in the event of armed robberies or confronting shoplifters?”

Colleague turnover varies from store to store and according to time of year. The majority of food store staff are made up of young people at school or college; it is this age group we see the highest level of turnover for as they generally move on to further education or full-time employment. In regard to armed robberies, these are thankfully extremely rare, however we acknowledge that they can be very distressing for the victims. Should this occur in any of our stores, the colleague involved is contacted by HR to check in and is offered help and support such as counselling. Additionally, the security manager would be placed in-store for the next shifts to offer extra support. Regarding incidents of shoplifting, colleagues are asked not to pursue thieves outside of the store as it puts their personal safety at risk. We expect staff to make their presence known to the shoplifter in-store in a non-confrontational manner (e.g. ‘Would you like a basket?’) as this is normally enough to deter them. While we have to put safety above all else, no colleague has ever been dismissed for pursuing or confronting a shoplifter. Managers are also frequently given support and guidance from the security manager about how to deal with these incidents.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Will we see a Post Office service being opened in any more of our current stores?”

There are no current plans to add any further Post Offices to our branches.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Do you have any vacant or surplus space that can be converted into residential properties to let?”

No. All of our current space above stores is let; there is no further space that would lend itself to residential use.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

How many members have CSCS got and why were there so few online for the AGM?”

CSCS has over 22,000 active members. However the challenge that Co-Ops have faced for many years is the understanding of how they work. Many of our members just see their membership as another retail loyalty card, the same as their Tesco or Nectar card, rather than something to be involved in. Our challenge is to educate our members about what we do and what it means to be a Co-Op, particularly among younger people.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Why are you still promoting BOGOF offers with the proposed HFSS legislation on the way?”

This relates to new legislation restricting promotions of products high in fat sugar & salt. As of October we will cease to run BOGOF or bulk promotions. We haven’t implemented this any earlier as we are contractually obliged to run promotions as per our buying group. There is also a risk to turnover and profitability if we remove these promotions before our competitors do. The Government have recently announced that the part of the High Fat, Salt and Sugar legislation that concerns bulk promotions has now been delayed until October 2023, due to the cost of living crisis. The Society is waiting to hear how the buying group will react to this delay before deciding on its own response.

Barry Wood - Chief Executive Officer

Will membership cards become contactless in future?”

Although we have explored contactless technology for our membership cards, there are some security issues concerning dividend and the potential ease of accessing someone else’s balance. We are looking into other more secure options, however this is not a priority at this time.

Kevin Bennett - Head of Membership & Marketing

Can dividend balances be transferred to other accounts via the new member portal?”

The new portal will make it easy to transfer your dividend to our Community Fund so it can be spent on good local causes. However, it cannot be transferred to share capital accounts as dividend is only available to be spent within the society and is not treated as ‘cash’.

Kevin Bennett - Head of Membership & Marketing