THE fifth largest retail co-op in the UK will become a reality this weekend (October 30).
The merger between the Ipswich and Norwich, and Colchester and East Essex societies has formed the East of England Co-op.
Approval to go-ahead with the merger was given at a series of members' meetings held during September and October, the final confirmatory meeting was held in Colchester on October 26 when members voted in favour of the merger and the creation of the society.
Chris Blanchett, Chief Executive of the Colchester and East Essex Co-op, who will become Chief Executive of the new society, said: "This is a very positive move that will create a strong and profitable co-operative business. It's an exciting time for everyone involved and we are sure the coming together of these two highly successful organisations will benefit our members and employees by providing increased career and business opportunities in the region."
Richard Samson, currently Chief Executive of the Ipswich and Norwich, will become Chief Executive Designate before taking on the role of Chief Executive when Mr Blanchett retires in late 2006.
Mr Samson said: "We are delighted that the merger has received the wholehearted support of members and employees. We appreciate the backing they have given to the proposals and are certain that the combined strength of the two Societies will create a co-operative business ready to face the competitive challenges ahead."
The merged society brings together two organisations that have worked together closely for many years operating businesses that are both complementary and geographically close.
It will have an annual turnover of around £ 400m and will employ over 5,000 people. Its 200 trading outlets cover around 2,000 square miles of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.
The welfare of employees has been taken into account during discussions and a guarantee has been given that no compulsory redundancies will occur as a direct result of the merger for at least two years.
Mike Faulkner, currently Secretary of Ipswich and Norwich, will become Secretary of the new society. James Day Secretary of Colchester and East Essex Society, will take up the new post of Head of Corporate Affairs.