The East of England Co-op has lost around £43,000 after accidentally applying a 20% discount across all of its stores.
The discount was to be applied to the co-operative’s Clacton store, until its closure on 31 December, but was erroneously introduced at all of the society’s 140 stores across Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.
A customer noticed when his shopping was getting the reduction for no apparent reason, and the cashier was equally nonplussed. News of the unintentional discount went viral and people began flocking to the stores to take advantage.
Roger Grosvenor, retail officer for East of England, said he was “flabbergasted” at the mistake.
“We were aware of the problem within an hour and a bit, but I just wanted to know the extent and cause of the problem,” he said.
“Unfortunately the computers at our Ipswich headquarters didn’t want to play ball, so it took a day and a half to get us back on track. No-one’s in trouble – it was an honest mistake.”
Before the mistake was rectified, customers received around £43,000 in discounts. But despite this loss, the society also saw an increase in sales.
“We also saw an increase in sales. It was a technical glitch that brought an unexpected but welcome surprise for our customers in the run up to Christmas,” said Mr Grosvenor.
Although sales rose by 4% for the period, it is not yet known whether that rise could simply be explained by an increase of business pre-Christmas.
The 20% reduction, still in place at the store on Bull Hill Road in Clacton, applies to “cans, bottles and packets”, but not alcohol, tobacco or fresh food.