CO-OP executives have reacted with a mixture of anger and incredulity to this week's Co-op News front page which exposed the Somerfield dirty tricks dossier targeting 200 of the Movement's stores.
Colin Bird, Chief Executive of Scotmid Society, told the News: `If I had not seen the Somerfield document with my own eyes, I would not have believed its contents.
`It is truly appalling. We all know that this is a highly competitive marketplace, but this really does scrape the bottom of the barrel. They should be ashamed of themselves.`
And Ipswich & Norwich Co-op's recently-appointed Chief Executive Richard Samson – who was featured in an Anglia TV report on the Somerfield campaign on Thursday ? commented: `I've been in retail management for 30 years and I've never seen anything like it.
`The main word that comes to mind is disappointment that any competitor would stoop to this. It certainly smacks of desperation.`
A Co-operative Group spokesman said: `While we do not agree with this kind of practice, it is recognition from a competitor of what we already know – that the Co-op is beating it hands down on quality, price and ethical trading.`
Meanwhile Meg Munn, Labour/Co-op MP for Sheffield Heeley, criticised what she called Somerfield's `sharp practice in the extreme.`
Four Co-op stores in Sheffield are on Somerfield's campaign target list and Ms Munn told the News: `What concerns me about the dossier is the way it attacks other workers' jobs and tries to bribe their own staff – all of which is in sharp contrast to the Co-op's ethical stance.`
The story has attracted a good deal of media attention since it appeared on www.thenews.coop on Monday.
Tuesday's Daily Mirror called the campaign `a bitter bid to grab a bigger slice of the market,` while the Manchester Evening News the following evening described the move as `aggressive.` The Ipswich-based Evening Star newspaper said Somerfield's move was `unprecedented.`
Co-op employees and activitists from around the country have been in touch to thank us for exposing the dossier and the News front page has been pinned up in staff areas nationwide.