The Co-operative Group, which is currently in talks to buy Somerfield, is planning to test a range of banking services in its food stores later this year in an attempt to bring together its diverse portfolio of businesses.
Over the next few months the society, which also owns The Co-operative Bank, will trial banking facilities in food stores in the Nottingham area. The trials will range from services such as a cash machine, automated deposit machine and a leaflet rack in some stores, to a full service with a member of The Co-operative Bank available to help customers.
When the trial is finished, the society will evaluate each of the ranges and could roll out the scheme to its food stores across the country.
The move is the latest attempt by The Co-op Group to combine its business interests, which as well as food and banking, include pharmacies, funerals and travel. In August last year the society opened a flagship c-store in Manchester alongside its existing financial centre and travel store to showcase its improved range of services. The c-store has its own entrance but can also be accessed via an entrance within the bank and travel store next door.
Last month the society also revealed that all of its 4,300 trading outlets would be refurbished to its new 'The Co-operative' fascia by the end of 2009. It is currently carrying out a £200m overhaul of its food stores.
The society has hinted it would not be in a hurry to rebrand Somerfield stores to 'The Co-operative' fascia if it bought the chain. At The Co-op Group's central and eastern members' regional agm in Kettering, deputy chairman Stephen Watts said that if a deal went through, there would be a time-lag between the acquisition and conversion to The Co-operative brand.
The society would have spent a great deal of money acquiring Somerfield, and changing it immediately could lose Somerfield customers, he said.