Co-op Christmas ad 2013

Co-op staff have blasted switch from 6pm to 10pm closure on Christmas Eve this year

The Co-operative Group is to keep its convenience stores open until 10pm on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve for the first time in a bid to be more competitive over the crucial festive period.

The society has traditionally closed its stores earlier than rivals on both days, but this year said it wanted “to meet customer needs and to be in line with our competitors”.

In an already difficult week for the society, in which former Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers was filmed allegedly buying Class A drugs, staff blasted the decision on social media.

“Pure greed! Used to close at 6pm both days. Will pay out more wages than they take,” wrote one member of staff.

Another posted: “I am absolutely gutted. Having three kids this does not go down too well. Miss out on their lives too much all year as it is .” And another wrote: “New Year’s Eve I don’t really mind, but Christmas Eve all stores should close at 6pm as most staff have families and children they would want to spend time with.”

However, The Co-op said staff would be rewarded for their efforts.

“We will be paying double time to team leaders and customer team members after 6pm on both Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are asking for volunteers to cover these extended hours, given some colleagues will not want to be in work after a certain time.”

And many staff supported the change. “Sometimes you have to stop and think what Christmas would be like without a job,” said one member of staff.

Another posted: “The shop and its merchandise are here for the convenience of the customers.”

Extending opening hours on these days also chimes with the society’s Christmas TV advertising campaign based on a relaxing Christmas.

The ad, which depicts a woman walking slowly home through a frenetic high street, has the voiceover “with more stores across the UK than any other supermarket, everything you need to make Christmas complete is never far away. Relax. Christmas is just around the corner.”

Meanwhile, the Co-op Group has launched trials of its Generation Two format, launched at four sites in the past two weeks.

The Co-op was “very pleased with customer reaction” and described like-for-like sales as “strong”. It plans to open 10 more by the end of the year and to have 305 by the end of 2014.

It also revealed that its long-awaited entry online will come before Christmas, with a click & collect trial planned at one store.