The recent wintry weather, which brought large swathes of the UK to a standstill, saw more people shopping locally and an increased demand for bread, milk and fresh produce.
But the road conditions made food deliveries a major problem throughout Scotland and the east coast of England in particular — though hundreds of Co-op employees responded by acting ‘beyond the call of duty’ by hand-delivering shopping to house-bound customers; rescuing stranded delivery drivers and trudging through snow and ice for hours to reach work.
Co-operative Group Chief Executive Peter Marks said: “Staff at our stores and in our distribution network across the country went the extra mile to serve their local communities in extremely difficult conditions and are a credit to themselves and the Group.
“Many worked extra hours or walked miles through thick snow to get to work and help with the demand the cold snap brought with it. The team spirit has been superb and our customers have been expressing their thanks. I would like to add my thanks to everyone for their exceptional effort.”
Malcolm Brown, Director of Corporate Affairs at Scotmid Society, commented: “The snow affected every area of Scotland, but our staff, customers and drivers have risen to the challenge and we have tried to make it ‘business as usual’ as much as possible.
“Some staff walked up to five miles to work when they realised they could not dig their cars out or use public transport. Often our stores are a lifeline in a village and it gives great pleasure to remain open and ensure our customers get much-needed supplies.”
Lincolnshire Co-operative Chief Executive Ursula Lidbetter said weather conditions in their trading area were some of the worst in living memory, but added the society had received many messages from customers thanking staff for their efforts in keeping stores open. “Throughout the spell, there were only a couple of occasions when we couldn’t open one of our outlets and that’s a fantastic achievement considering the conditions,” said Ms Lidbetter.
Further south, East of England Chief Executive Richard Samson thanked his staff for their commitment and enthusiasm in ensuring that all society businesses stayed open. He added: “Our Suffolk Distribution Centre pulled out all the stops to get deliveries to all stores and extra emphasis was placed on using our local bakeries and in-store bakery operations to pick up any shortfall on normal deliveries.”
Wholesaler Suma co-op, based in Elland, West Yorkshire, said it was business as usual with deliveries being made nationwide to retailers by its fleet of 20 trucks. Despite many organisations and mail carriers being unable to take new orders for delivery in Scotland, Suma continued to do so and said all but one truck managed to make successful deliveries.