CRTG, the buying group for the co-operative movement, is actively seeking new partnerships in the independent sector.
Martin Beaumont, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, which runs CRTG, confirmed the development at the Association of Convenience Stores annual conference in Blackpool this week.
He said CRTG needed to increase its membership beyond the 41 co-op societies it serves. “Although we have £5bn we think it is important that we are able to continue to grow that scale to ensure we remain price competitive. Therefore we are looking at franchising and other business, and taking the opportunity to see whether we can form alliances with other buying groups.”
His comments would appear to confirm speculation that the Co-operative Group had been keen to forge an alliance with Londis - and that it is about to launch a franchise scheme for the independent sector.
“Provided we can achieve something as disciplined as CRTG, there is an opportunity to extend that model beyond the co-operative societies. That would be good for the convenience sector generally in fending off the threat of Tesco and the like,” said Beaumont. He added: “We know that price is one of the key drivers of where people shop. “Yes, convenience stores can withstand a price premium, but that premium is likely to narrow.
“You must be competitive in all aspects of your offer against others providing convenience services.”
Beaumont told the ACS it was vital the sector was able to maximise its buying power and said it needed to adopt more collaborative business models. “If we are all to withstand Tesco and the like then we all need to get closer together - big and small.”