Your questions answered

In this section

We would like to say a big thank you to all our members who submitted questions prior to and at our Annual Members' Meeting. It's great to hear from our members and we were pleased to be able to answer many of your questions live at our AMM. Those questions we weren't able to get to have been answered below.

  • Pricing

    Q. I notice that the Co-op prices on goods are usually higher than the larger brand supermarkets. Would it be viable for prices to be slashed more on goods during normal hours and raised more out of normal hours? 

    A. Offering good products at fair prices is one of our Co-op's key founding principles. We're always working hard to offer our communities what they need, when they need it, at prices that are fair to our customers, as well as our farmers, producers and manufacturers. 

    Our pricing strategy is well balanced and comparable to the convenience market in which we operate. As a co-operative, we offer a comprehensive range of products and services and believe it would be detrimental to members and customers to vary prices at different times during the day. We do, across all our Food stores, offer a comprehensive promotional package which changes every three weeks. 

  • Gender parity

    Q. Is it all men that run the East of England in top positions? 

    A. Whilst our Executive positions are held by males, 11 of our 16 Board of Directors are female and 57% of all managers within our Co-op are female.

    Q. How is the company getting on with reducing its Gender Pay gap? 

    A. On a role-by-role comparison, we have very good parity between male and female pay, but we have much more to do in respect of addressing the gender inbalance in our higher paying roles.

    This is a longer-term solution driven by actions such as putting greater emphasis on flexible working and creating better access to management training opportunities, as well as looking at how we describe and advertise our job opportunities. 

    We have yet to publish our Gender Pay Report for the year ended 5 April 2020, however we plan to do so before the end of the calendar year. This report will show that we have a mean gender pay difference of 18.8%. Despite our mean gap remaining static this year (with a marginal increase of 0.4%), we believe we are making progress in addressing gender balance as a result of the gradual increase in the proportion of women in the top earning quartile. 

    Facilitated focus groups
    We have undertaken externally facilitated focus groups with female colleagues in managerial and professional roles in our Co-op to understand what they believe stops them from progressing or wanting to progress. An action plan has been developed based on the findings.

    Family Leave Policy 
    We have reviewed our Family Leave Policy, and made several enhancements, including: 

    • Enhanced maternity and paternity pay
    • Improved pension provision whilst on family leave
    • Additional leave and pay for parents of babies placed in neonatal care at birth
    • Paid antenatal appointments for fathers
    • New IVF Policy
  • Travel

    Q. Is the Society going to keep its Travel business unlike Central England Co-operative Society?

    A. We continually review all our businesses to ensure that they have a long-term future. Our Travel business has been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and will generate a significant loss in the current financial year. 

    We take decisions based on the long-term view for all of our businesses, which is why we exited from Pharmacies and Opticians. 

  • Finances

    Q. How is the turnover split between the the family of businesses, beyond just retail and property? 

    A. Food sales represent 84% of the total turnover from ongoing businesses in the 20/21 Financial year. 

    Travel turnover represents commission rather than holiday sales, so represents a small proportion of our overall turnover (less than 2%).

    Our Funeral business turnover was nearly £12m in our 20/21 Financial year, equating to nearly 4% of turnover from our ongoing businesses. 

    Q. You have shown details of turnover of retail and property. Does the profit reflect the same percentage? 

    A. Our Property business contributes a higher proportion of its rental income as profit than our Retail businesses. 

    Food contributes the most profitability (in £ terms) as you would expect given the level of turnover (in excess of £280m). 

  • Funeral Services

    Q. You have a lot of funeral parlours. Must be expensive. How is technology being introduced to deal with clients? 

    A. As with all our family of businesses, we're always looking at new ways to enhance the service we provide our customers and clients. 

    Over the past few months, we have developed our online services beyond the purchasing of pre-paid funeral plans. 

    Customers can now begin to arrange a funeral through our website, giving them the time and space to consider the options from the comfort of their home. Once this electronic form is submitted, a member of our Funeral team makes contact to talk through the details and ensure we can meet the needs of the client. 

    In addition, we provide families with an online tribute where friends and family can share memories and stories, light candles, add music and photos and leave messages. The system also collects in-memory donations for chosen charities.

  • Property

    Q. I've been pleased to see your continued development of much needed housing, but do you have any plans to sign up your residential tenants as members and pay them a dividend on their rent?

    A. We have recently completed five family homes in Woodbridge and work is underway on three further family homes in Rushmere St Andrew. In addition, 24 apartments will come on stream in 2021 as part of our redevelopment on Long Wyre Street, Colchester. 

    We consider ourselves to be a responsible landlord that provides good quality, well designed and well-built homes. The benefit of occupying our residential homes is that we engage with our tenants fairly, objectively and considerately and ensure we provide first class service. 

    We would be pleased to have our tenants as members of our Co-op. At present our policy is not to pay a dividend on rental payments. 

  • Membership

    Q. What member activity has been initiated and how many new members have resulted from this work this year? 

    During the last financial year, we had a number of ways of directly engaging with our members, including invite-only member events, monthly email updates and a magazine. We also attended over 100 community events. 

    With a programme of communications and incentives, we also reached out to re-engage with lapsed members. 

    Prior to the pandemic, we had booked venues across our region for member events that would have been attended by the Leadership Team and Board of Directors. We have plans to reinstate these member events, pending Government guidance. 

    At the start of the pandemic, we introduced weekly emails to keep our members and customers updated. Whilst we are reviewing the frequency and content, we intend to continue regular email communications with our members and customers. 

    To date this year, we have recruited 7,261 new members. This number is lower than recent years since we have not held as many recruitment events due to Covid-19.

    Looking ahead to 2021, we will be introducing an online sign-up process that will enable new members to join in-store or at home and become an active member within minutes. 

    We have recently introduced a new Membership Management system, which enables us to get greater member insight and begin to produce much more tailored programmes for individual members based on their shopping behaviour. 

    We also have several partnerships ready to go but all have been hampered by the pandemic. We will communicate these to our members when the time is right.