Source: Central Co-op

CEO Debbie Robinson said it is looking to open 17 new stores this year

Central Co-op is targeting a record number of new store openings this year, as it prepares to move its logistical operations over to the Co-op-owned LIDIA network.

CEO Debbie Robinson told The Grocer it is looking to open 17 new stores in 2023, where it usually aims for 10 to 15, along with 30 store refurbs. It is also planning to launch in north Yorkshire eventually.

The move to LIDIA aims to support Central Co-op’s growth ambitions, having been dealing with mounting pressure across its three Leicester depots over the years as the society continued to grow in store numbers and geographical territory. 

It is currently working with an additional local logistics partner to aid its current logistics capacity, with plans to close its depots and move its entire network to LIDIA next year to pursue further growth ambitions.

LIDIA is made up of 13 distribution depots across the UK and Central Co-op will be using these depots to deliver goods to its stores. Plans regarding which and how many depots will be servicing Central Co-op are under review.

Robinson explained moving to the LIDIA network would also help to reduce costs across the business and better its environmental impact, while allowing it to maintain deliveries to the Heart of England and Tamworth Co-ops which it carries out for each society. 

“We’re looking to be as efficient and effective as we can to reduce our costs,” said Robinson. “The biggest benefit is a united single co-operative network, which means we will have fewer distribution points for suppliers.

“That should have a knock-on effect from a commercial perspective, as we’re making it simpler for suppliers to deal with us, and will in turn improve our terms which is really important in today’s economy.

“It will also be beneficial from an environmental perspective as we’ll be using resources more efficiently, as suppliers that would have been delivering to our depot as well as to the group’s depots now won’t have to do that. It’s all part of our strategy of creating a sustainable society for all.”

The money it will save will also allow the business to drive more investment into new stores, regenerations and technology, she added.

Along with the 17 new stores and 30 refurbs this year, Central Co-op is investing in solar panels and electronic shelf-edge labels across its estate to boost efficiency and “to make the jobs in store as simple as we possibly can”.

The move to LIDIA will consequently mean shutting its three Leicester depots, putting 400 jobs at risk. However, it is currently identifying ways to avoid redundancy and redeploying those who would like to move into alternative roles either within Central Co-op or the LIDIA network.

”Our depots were the epicentre of our stores, and we have a team of dedicated colleagues who have done an amazing job for years,” Robinson said. ”We’re entering a consultation period with Usdaw and our priority will be supporting our colleagues.”