INTERVIEW: Central Co-op chief executive Debbie Robinson

The convenience chain's firm highlighted investment into staff training

Central Co-op is making major investments into customer retention, staff training and sustainability to ensure its stores are hubs in their communities, the firm’s chief executive Debbie Robinson has revealed.

Speaking to Better Retailing, Robinson said the investment was part of a review into the firm’s culture in a bid to attract a younger demographic of customers and staff. She said: “The latest developments are interesting because we’re targeting particular products at certain customers. It will bring younger people into stores and it’s quite an interesting dynamic. It’s a big part of our agenda.

“We’ve just launched a new member app. It has some really great offers on the basics such as bread and milk, but it isn’t a loyalty app. While it offers member deals, it also presents many opportunities to get involved in community activities, such as fitness classes and learning opportunities.”

The chain has also expanded its range of services to help support staff, which includes apprenticeships, debt-free degrees and work placement opportunities. Robinson added: “There are opportunities to attract more young people into Central Co-op and the retail sector as a whole by offering really great training experiences.

“We have thousands of colleagues and we ask them what is really special to them. We ask staff what they love about working for Central Co-op and what isn’t working so well. It’s about giving them empowerment and allowing them to implement their own ideas.

“One big initiative that has come from this is having more green energy. We’re looking at alternative energy sources and have invested in solar panels. This started in December 2022 and they’ve already produced 30% of the energy required in stores. We’ll see the full impact when the year ends.”

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