MANCHESTER'S highly successful Commonwealth Games last year provided the spark which led to the setting up of a unique co-operative trading concept in the city centre.
The former banking hall at the Co-operative Bank headquartrers has been refurbished and rebranded as No 1 Balloon Street and now incorporates a Travelcare branch and a Co-operative Insurance Society outlet as well as traditional banking facilities.
And at the official opening of the bright, airy premises last week, Co-operative Group Chief Executive Martin Beaumont revealed that the idea to launch the £ 1 million project was first mooted last summer as the city hosted the biggest and best Commonwealth Games ever.
Mr Beaumont told guests at the opening reception: `Manchester has a lot to thank the Commonwealth Games for and so does the Co-operative Group, for it was in the Athletes Village that the Co-operative Bank and Travelcare proved how well they could work together through the opening of a joint outlet to provide travel and banking services.
`No1 Balloon Street has flowed as a natural extension from that project and, so to speak, makes good use of some prime living space at the family home.`
Added Mr Beaumont: `From the outset, the team behind the project has had some specific business objectives to achieve in terms of creating a new retail concept which would meet their operational and business requirements; help them grow their respective market shares and fully exploit the opportunities for cross- selling.
`They wanted to create an environment which was welcoming, modern and light - an outlet which would play an important role in raising the profile of all three brands. Having seen the fruits of their labour, I think I can safely say they are already well on their way to achieving their goals.`
Mr Beaumont said No 1 Balloon Street was a prime example of the excellence achieved by the Co-operative Group's family through teamwork and pointed out that the development illustrates just how effectively members of the Group are working together to explore new ideas and markets in changing times.
He concluded: `Co-operative values of openness, honesty and responsibility are more relevant than ever in today's society.
`Individually these three businesses ? the bank, CIS and Travelcare - have already demonstrated that a co-operative proposition has great appeal in their individual markets. Trading together, I am sure they will prove unstoppable.`