The first store found through The Co-operative Group’s Suggest A Site scheme has opened its doors.

The Co-op Group launched the initiative in January 2012, asking its members to be its “eyes and ears” in the hunt for new stores. Members who suggest a location or property that is turned into a Co-op food store receive £500 in gift vouchers.

The new 2,000 sq ft shop opened this week in South Darenth, Kent, following a suggestion from a local resident and a £450,000 refurbishment. It was opened by store manager Rebecca Tormey and pupils from Horton Kirby Church of England Primary School.

It has created 20 new jobs and is the first of four Suggest A Sites due to open this year.

“With nearly eight million members throughout the UK, it was a logical choice to invite them to identify potential sites,” said The Co-operative Group national acquisitions manager Andrew Coles. “After all, no one knows the needs of local communities better than the people who live and work in them.”

The Co-op Group is aiming to open 100 new stores this year.