Chelmsford Star Co-op has launched a number of upgrades to its online services, including home delivery through Snappy Shopper and online ranges from its Quadrant department store.
Quadrant sales are available nationally, meaning people across the country can access co-op department stores once again.
Holidays can be purchased online, and the society’s funerals site has a commitment-free, tailor-made quote-builder. The society has also launched a new member portal – giving access to different services, including additional discounts via its ‘co-op-ons’.
While Chelmsford Star had previously considered the opportunities of online trading, “we were mindful that the development required could be prohibitive in terms of making it commercially viable,” said CEO Barry Wood. “But when the pandemic hit, the society was immediately at a disadvantage compared to other retailers as overnight our two department stores were forced to close their doors.
“That income stream was lost and we did not have a web presence capable of being turned quickly into a trading presence, nor did we have a home delivery service for the society’s food business, an area many retailers were able to capitalise on.”
As a result of this, the society reviewed its online options across each of its businesses.
For its food business, Chelmsford Star joined Southern, Central, Tamworth and other UK retail co-ops in partnering with Snappy Shopper.
“We were looking for a partner that had the technology platform that the Society could use, meaning access to the online channel was relatively capital-light,” said Wood. “The society chose Snappy Shopper based on the fact it was already being used by other co-operative societies and that the prices charged for the products being offered online were the same as in-store prices, which felt like the right thing to do as a co-operative. Why should consumers be penalised if they cannot leave the house and have to shop online?”
Chelmsford Star’s Quadrant department store is one of the few remaining on the UK mainland. “The loss of the ability to trade the stores during the pandemic and the rise in online shopping acted as the catalyst to build the functionality to trade the department stores online,” said Wood.
Initially, just the Housewares department is being traded online but this will be extended to further home departments in the new year. “It is hoped that while we may not be able to compete with the likes of Amazon, we do offer a solution to those people wanting to purchase from an ethical retailer,” added Wood.
The society believed that with its other businesses trading online, “it made sense to offer our members and non-members the opportunity to book their holidays with us online, too”. Partnership was important here, as well, with the society working with Jet2 to offer a commercially viable solution.
During a Strategic review of the Funeral business in 2017, Chelmsford Star “made a conscious decision that transparency of funeral pricing should be at the heart of the business, with all pricing clearly provided on the website,” said Wood.
“Clients can now also choose their floral tributes in the comfort of their own home rather than feeling under pressure when in the branch, letting them take into account the views of other family members, too.”
Visit the online department store at quadrant.chelmsfordstar.coop/shop-online-with-quadrant/
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