Co-op's £11m investment in region will create 250 jobs

The Co-op has announced plans to create 250 jobs in Yorkshire by investing more than £11m in new stores and funeral homes across the region.

9 May 2016....Richard Pennycook, CEO of the Co-operative Group. Picture Scott Merrylees
9 May 2016....Richard Pennycook, CEO of the Co-operative Group. Picture Scott Merrylees

The Co-op, which already has 320 food stores and 94 funeral homes across the county employing around 6,800 people, plans to open up to 15 new shops, and refit 10 between now and this time next year.

In that time, it will also open a further 10 funeral homes, Richard Pennycook, the Co-op’s chief executive said. Last year, the Co-op launched a local supplier initiative which led to community retailers stocking 130 products made across the county.

The Co-op has signed up more than 50 local manufacturers and micro producers to provide its stores across Yorkshire with a wide range of locally produced items including eggs, bakery, ice cream, sweets, chutneys, pies, sausages and beer.

The local sourcing initiative is a pilot in Yorkshire, but if it proves successful it will be rolled out to other parts of the UK.

A spokesman said: “The Co-op has also continued to show its commitment and support to Yorkshire in times of trouble and difficulty. For example, when the floods hit last Christmas, Co-op Insurance opened its helpline on Boxing Day – with staff volunteering to come in and deal with new claims and provide support.

“They contacted customers within 250 metres of areas at risk of flooding to see if they needed help. Senior managers also made home visits to those affected.”

Yorkshire has also been an area for Co-op investment in other areas. Co-op Legal Services recently acquired Sheffield based Collective Legal Solutions, which employs 20 people and has around 100 self-employed associates.

The spokesman added: “This acquisition means that the Co-op is now able to offer face-to-face services to clients in their local communities in England and Wales.”

Around 260,000 Co-op members across Yorkshire have been sent voting packs for the Co-op’s AGM on May 21.

For each member that votes, the Co-op will donate 50p to help the British Red Cross support people who feel lonely and isolated. If all eligible members in Yorkshire vote, this appeal will raise £125,000, the Co-op said.

Mr Pennycook, who lives in York, said the group was delighted to be making a significant investment across the county.

He added: “We are looking forward to adding to our already significant portfolio of stores and funeral homes, creating hundreds of new jobs in the process.

“The Co-op is a community-led business and we are committed to playing an active role in local life.

“The new stores and funeral homes will form hubs for local communities and customers will be able to find out what is going on locally, and learn about how the Co-op is here to benefit local groups.

“With the combination of new stores and funeral homes, and our commitment to lowering the price of everyday essentials and protecting peoples’ homes, I am confident we’ll make a difference to the communities we serve.”

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YORKSHIRE is one of the Co-op Group’s heartlands, according to Richard Pennycook, the mutual’s CEO.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “We have 7,000 colleagues here, we will add up to 300 new jobs this year. Some of that will be as a result of building new food stores, some of it new funeral care homes, and across the region we will be investing about £1m a month this year.

“Yorkshire itself is pretty vibrant at the moment,’’ he added. “We can see good growth in this region, that’s allowing us to invest. It’s also building on a very strong historic base.”

He added: “We have a very fine funeral care business. We are handling some 2,000 funerals a week nationally and obviously that’s dealing with people at a very vulnerable time in their lives.

“Our colleagues who do that are brilliant. What we are seeing increasingly is that people want to plan ahead for the later stages of their lives.

“People are very responsible and very thoughtful about their later years and we can help with that through our legal services practice.

“We have a big estate of stores that need some attention; they have been a bit unloved in recent years, so we’re investing strongly in those and then opening new stores as well.

“Roughly, the ratio will be that we’re doing three refurbishments for every new store. We’ve been growing market share for about 18 months now.”

He added: “We’re pleased with that, it’s a reflection on what the team have been doing.

“We’ve been improving product quality enormously. And we’ve been improving value as well. That food business is a very fine business.”