The Co-operative Wholesale Society and Co-operative Retail Services are finally set to merge on April 2. CRS chief executive Andy Meehan has lost his position with the new group after helping to mastermind the merger. CWS chief executive Graham Melmoth will take over the running of the company, following a ratification vote on March 25. Meehan was philosophical about the situation: "There is no room to have two chief executives running the business and I hope to get another position within the sector." The announcement came after 98% of CRS members agreed to accept the deal in a vote this week. The combined company will form a £4.7bn operation. The merger has been hailed as a major success for both the CRS and CWS. CRS's food sales of £1.2bn will double the merged society's food retailing strength, while the expanded funerals operation will become the largest in the UK with a 16% market share. The two societies' motor trades businesses will together have a turnover of £200m. Overall job losses will be minimal, said the company, with only 320 staff out of a total workforce of 50,000 losing their jobs as the buying, IT and distribution functions are merged. Meehan described the merged operations as "almost an exact fit regionally -­ we do not trade in each other's areas". Both societies' food retailing strategies are focused on the convenience and small supermarket sector. The new group plans to increase store numbers above its current 1,110. Within the next three years it will have adopted a two line format ­ convenience stores will be brought under the Co-op Welcome fascia, while larger town stores are presently undergoing trials on a new format in two locations. The Co-op has also recently invested £100m in 11 former Somerfield stores. A review board is to be set up to make recommendations on constitutional issues and to decide a new name for the business. l Full Circle, p14. {{NEWS }}