John Wood
United Co-op has started the integration of Yorkshire Co-op's 120 stores into the enlarged group following the completion of the merger between the two.
Paul Griffiths, general manager, food group, said the integration process would begin by identifying best practice across the enlarged group. He said: "There are many things Yorkshire do that we would like to embrace across the estate."
Griffiths said it was too early to say what changes might be made, but he pointed out that Yorkshire's blue liveried Late Shops were already quite close to the blue and aqua adopted by United's Late Shops.
Since United unveiled the new look in February 1999 the roll-out has accelerated every year with 51 converted in 2000, 100 in 2001, and 115 this year.
Griffiths said the final 20 stores would be converted in the first quarter of 2003.
United is also nearing completion of a complete overhaul of its buying system.
Early this year United joined CRTG, the buying group for all the major co-op societies, and United's buying has been transferred, category by category, to it.
The final lines come on stream next month, just six months after the process began.
The changeover involved introducing 3,000 new lines into stores and removing another 3,000, and Griffiths said completing the massively complex project in such a short time scale was a magnificent achievement by all the staff.
The merger of United with Yorkshire means its territory stretches from Rhyl on the Welsh coast across to the east coast of Yorkshire.
The newly enlarged territory has allowed the highly acquisitive society to add a new group of businesses to its list of targets, said Griffiths.
It bought more than 30 stores this year, and Griffiths said he did not expect the integration to slow the rate of purchases.
United Co-op is the second largest society in the UK by turnover.

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