Leaders, managers and directors of consumer-owned retail co-operatives will gather in Stratford in March for the annual Co-operative Retail Conference. Organised by Co-operatives UK, the event will include keynote presentations from industry specialists, best practice from retailers and discussion sessions for delegates.
Beginning on Friday, 4 March with a first timer’s session about the purpose of the event and a networking drinks reception, the conference will open on Saturday, 5 March with a presentation from James Walton, chief economist at IGD, who will provide expert analysis on all things retail – from market trends to consumer insight via IGDs shopper research.
Another speaker over the weekend will be Arttu Laine, executive vice-president from SOK, the procurement arm of S-Group, Finland’s market leader with retail sales in excess of €11.2bn, while Jon Alexander, director of the New Citizenship Project, will explore ways to engage, maintain and expand membership.
Tim Knowles, head of HR services at Co-operatives UK, will look at good reporting practices around pay, with a focus on legislative duty, and Professor Leigh Sparks from Stirling University’s Institute for Retail Studies will examine the role of retail in towns and cities and its response to changes in consumer habits.
In a session focused on how co-op retailers can serve the needs of different customer demographics, Teresa Perchard from the Extra Costs Commission (ECC) will talk about how people with disabilities represent “a powerful group of customers that businesses should not ignore if they wish to grow”.
Households with a disabled person spend £420m each week, according to disability charity Scope. By failing to tap into this ‘purple pound’, co-op retailers could be missing out on a share of £212bn every year, said Ms Perchard.
The ECC undertook a year-long, independent inquiry that explored the drivers of additional costs of goods and services faced by disabled people and their families, and made a series of recommendations for businesses.
“The specific approach that particular retailers can take to drive down extra costs for disabled people will vary according to the types of goods and services provided. We found that disabled people are extremely interested in getting the best deal and the best service,” Ms Perchard explained.
“There was strong support for a discount card scheme involving retailers that want to serve disabled people well and there was strong support for collective or group purchasing.
“Overall, it is really important for retailers to understand the experiences of existing and potential disabled customers, which will help them to see how they can improve the service and products they offer to disabled people.”
- The Co-operative Retail Conference takes place from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 March 2016 at Stratford Manor Hotel, Warwick Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 0PY. For further details and to book, visit www.uk.coop/co-operative-retail-conference.