FORMER Ipswich & Norwich and Heart of England Chief Executive Richard Samson now heads East of England Society following the retirement of Chris Blanchett.
Mr Samson, who has been Chief Executive Designate of East of England since the society was formed as a result of last year's merger between Ipswich & Norwich and Colchester & Essex co-ops, has been closely involved in the integration process of the new society and the re-branding of its diverse business activities.
East of England is now the fourth largest independent consumer co-operative in the UK, with annual turnover in excess of £ 350 million. It operates around 200 trading outlets and has more than 5,000 employees in a trading area covering some 2,000 square miles across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
Mr Samson says he is keen to continue driving forward the society's development programme, which is anticipated to reach £ 40 million over the coming year. Major developments currently underway include a new £ 10m supermarket and retail centre in Colchester and redeveloping a food store in Rosehill, Ipswich.
In recent months, the society has opened a new £ 1.8m food store at Ravenswood, Ipswich, and took its food store portfolio to 117 with the acquisition of Craske's Supermarket at Horsford, near Norwich.
A significant investment is being made in upgrading stores and gradually introducing the new East of England Co-op branding. Plus plans to develop a food store and flats at Hatfield Peverel, Essex, are also being progressed.
Said Mr Samson said: "I am delighted to be taking over the reins at such an exciting time. Our current development programme involves around £ 40 million being allotted to upgrade existing businesses and acquire new ones and is the largest programme ever planned by the Co-op in East Anglia. Although competition is intense across the region, we plan to increase our market share and to continue to offer all our members the opportunity to share in the profits of our unique organisation."