New Co-op store opens in Norwich

It is an independent retailer that prides itself on being committed to the local communities in the three counties it serves. And now the East of England Co-operative Society – part of the movement we all know simply as the Co-op – has just opened its newest food store in Norwich.

The Colman Road Co-op Food Store, on the site of the former Romany pub car park, was officially opened last week.

It is one of 19 Co-op food stores in Norwich and 42 in the whole of Norfolk.

Paul Windsor is the manager of the store, which has employed more than 35 people and which offers customers thousands of products, including Fairtrade and locally-sourced goods.

Mr Windsor, who has worked for the Co-op for nearly 10 years and who lives at Costessey, believes one of the reasons for the organisation's success is its focus on being local.

He said: 'I think the Co-op's values and principles are in the right place. It is the community spirit side of things: our food stores are local stores. Customers enjoy seeing a friendly face when they walk in, and they can become members and own a �1 share in the company too.

'I am really happy to have taken the role of manager at the Colman Road store, and I look forward to meeting all the new faces and customers and saying hello.'

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He said he hoped the store would give a boost to the area and have a positive effect on neighbouring businesses.

'It has been very positive so far: we have had a lot of positive feedback from customers. I think the store is going to be great for the area,' he said.

'Hopefully, it will attract more people to the area and that will help other businesses as well.

'Hopefully, we can all work together to keep business booming for all of us.'

Roger Grosvenor, the Co-op's group general manager for trade, said: 'We see ourselves as a complementary retailer rather than a predatory retailer. We want to keep areas vibrant, especially small villages and shopping parades.

'Our principal thought is being able to provide the customers with a creditable alternative to the major multiples, and also with the benefit that if customers are members they are able to attract dividends on their purchases.'

He said the organisation was committed to using local suppliers and local sourcing and wanted to expand on this in the future; the Co-op highlighted the food-miles of products it sold.

'We want our customers to understand that when we say 'local' we mean local, and that is why we print the food-miles. We want to give the customer an understanding of how far a product has travelled,' he said.

'As we are taking more and more local products, the local suppliers are employing more staff. We are not only selling local products to our customers: we are helping to engage local people into employment.'

Mr Grosvenor said the Co-op stores could also act as extra outlets for local businesses to sell their products.

He explained: 'We go to the local bakers and we say: 'We do not want to be in competition with you: we want to sell your products too.' In that way we are not taking his business – in fact, we are providing a new outlet. We try to be complementary not predatory.'

He said the Co-op was also committed to helping charities. An example of its efforts was a fundraising week held last year that collected �39,000, which was divided between Help for Heroes and two other armed forces charities.

As well as Norfolk, the East of England Co-operative Society trades across Suffolk and Essex. It is the third-largest independent Co-operative society in the UK with an annual turnover exceeding �400m.

The organisation we see today was formed after the merger in 2005 of the Ipswich and Norwich and the Colchester and East Essex Co-operative societies.

Apart from its supermarkets and food stores, the Co-op is involved in other activities including a funeral service, filling stations and selling electrical products online.

The Co-op employs more than 4,500 people and is owned entirely by its half a million members, who live or work locally and who enjoy a share in its profits and a say in its control.

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The Colman Road Co-Op Food Store is open every day from 7.30am until 9pm.

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