UK co-ops: Latest actions on the Covid-19 pandemic

Another round up of moves by co-ops to support their communities

Principle Seven: Concern for Community, is one of the core values of the co-op movement and across the UK, co-ops of all shapes and sizes have been putting it into action. Here are a few examples:

The Co-op Group has announced that from today most of its stores will close at 8pm, to give staff time properly replenish the shelves and clean the stores.

The Group is restricting orders on its home delivery service to a maximum of 20 items, is hiring more staff to meet demand and has removed the bagless shopping option to help avoid contamination.

It previously announced that is giving £1.5m worth of food to Fareshare, the UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors, which works with almost 11,000 frontline charities and community groups. This is in response to the drop in donations to foodbanks since the crisis began.

Central England Co-op made a similar announcement tonight that, from tomorrow, its stores will be closing at 8pm.

And it says till colleagues will be placed two meters apart, there will be safe distance markers at checkouts, and shoppers will be admitted on a one in, one out basis. There is extra store cleaning and shoppers are being asked to use contactless where possible.

From today, East of England Co-op, an independent retail society, is offering 10% off to all NHS workers on all purchases at our food stores until further notice.

To claim the discount, it asks that NHS workers show their NHS ID at the till. Usual T&Cs apply and the retailer cannot offer this discount at its petrol forecourts.

Midcounties Co-op, in its latest statement, has highlighted measures to protect staff and customers, including increased cleaning, hand washing, social distancing across all outlets, and limiting contact at pay points.

Group CEO Phil Ponsonby added: “We are constantly reviewing the operations of our food stores, funeral homes, childcare nurseries and community pharmacies to ensure they remain open to serve our local communities wherever we can. There may however be times when we do need to temporarily change some of our opening hours at some of these sites. Whilst we will do all we can do minimise this, you will find any changes that we have had to make here.

Mr Ponsonby paid tribute to the local farmers and suppliers who had worked to keep stores stocked, and to the co-op’s Travel team, which has been fielding up to 1,000 queries a day

“We have now taken the decision to centralise this operation to help us to better manage the volume and continuity of these enquiries, while also enabling us to deploy scores of colleagues to support our food stores.”

He said Midcounties’ Childcare nurseries remain open wherever possible for children of key workers, with extra steps taken to protect children, our colleagues and parents. Provision will also continue to be provided for those classed as ‘vulnerable’.

Mr Ponsonby added: “I am also committed to ensuring that we are helping those most in need at this difficult time. Providing product donations and volunteering support for food banks is needed now more than ever. Our customers and members can donate in all our food stores and we would ask you to consider doing that. We would also urge you to consider volunteering to help with local food banks, to find out more about volunteering at the Trussell Trust, click here.” 

Thanking members and colleagues, he said: “As a fellow co-operator,  it is a small measure of comfort that the solution so many have turned to in recent days is completely in line with co-operatives and co-operators across the world, in particular, the values of social responsibility and caring for others, that are needed now, more than ever.”

Co-operation Town, the newly established network of food co-ops taking root across the country, has been taking steps to serve those in need in their communities, in conjuncion with mutual aid groups.

On its Facebook page, Co-operation Town said: “We’ve been quiet while working hard to organise a response to the current crisis. We decided to concentrate, for now, on our existing infrastructure in North London (where our space is) and build around that for now.

“We are in conversation with local schools, Camden council, the The Felix Project and, of course, our community, to develop a basic food distribution system that would answer immediate needs. We hope to be in full operation asap.

“We are looking for local people to get involved in a variety of tasks (packing, driving, admin, etc). If you live in Camden, please get in touch by filling in this form.”

Co-operation Town is speaking to organisers elsewhere and, as soon as possible, will aim to scale up its operation to include other areas.

Drive Taxis, the driver-owned co-op in Cardiff, is transporting NHS workers to and from work with a 25% discount. It is also offering prescription collections, and doing click and collect trips, and carries out shopping trips for the elderly and vulnerable free of charge.