The Co-op is urging suppliers to sign up to “wow deals” that enable it to slash prices on key products in return for longer-term partnerships.
Commercial chiefs said closer relations with suppliers were a pivotal part of overhauling of its convenience offer, alongside new store openings and the re-invention of its membership scheme at the IGD trade briefing in Manchester this week.
Commercial director Michael Fletcher and director of trading Andy Phelps urged suppliers to sign up to “wow” deals, which would include special large pack promotions at the front of store, sources reported.
While asking for lower prices, the Co-op also promised to slash the “confusing” number of promotions and store clutter to make the shopping experience simpler.
“The key message from Fletcher and Phelps was about forging greater strategic partnerships with suppliers,” said one source at the event.
“There was also great emphasis on what they referred to as the ease of shop.
“They admit that they have been losing shoppers to the discounters and they want to make prices more competitive but also make price, promotions and ranging much more effective and drive out duplication.”
Another supplier at the event said the Co-op management team had put better supplier relationships at the heart of its strategy.
“I would say that the door is not just open for suppliers but off its hinges. I was very encouraged,” he said.
“In the past the Co-op has been in turmoil at these IGD events and very defensive but the contrast now is amazing.
“They have realised, like other supermarkets, that its essential they work more closely with suppliers. Of course, price will be part of that conversation but it’s about a lot more than that.”
Other initiatives unveiled at the event included new guidance for suppliers on the Co-op’s forecasting procedures, as well as plans for a joint training course for category managers involving suppliers and Co-op buyers.
Fletcher told The Grocer: “We continue to grow as a business and perform ahead of the market. But it is a highly competitive environment and so we are keen to look at new ways to offer our shoppers value.
“The Co-op was founded on being stronger by working together and we’re keen to strengthen trading relationships with suppliers for our mutual benefit.
“Strategic partnerships with shared aims and values offer this. In addition, we are looking to sharpen up promotions and offers to maximise value for money for our members and customers.”