Posted by Felicity Potter,
Annoyed, like many people, about the change in Hebden Bridge Co-op, I sent the following message to the 'Contact Us' page at www.coop.co.uk and received the response below.
It isn't just the restriction on Suma products, which happily are available elsewhere. They've also cut back on Fair Trade products (available from Oxfam however) and things like RSPCA-approved cold meat. On the bright side, local small shops must be gaining lots of ex-Coop customers (like me).
On the gloomy side, we've now lost both the Co-op and the Information Centre as places of community information. Any suggestions for alternative venues for a community notice-board and local information leaflets?
I wrote to the Co-op:
Hebden Bridge Co-op used I think to be part of Yorkshire Co-ops and it was customer friendly, easy to get into and stocked a lot of items requested by local people, for example the ethical and wholefood end of the market. It also had a thriving community notice board. It's recently been taken over by United Coops and has blocked off the town-side entrance, making it very hard work for pedestrians, especially elderly ones, blanked out the windows, cut back drastically on variety of stock, especially ethical and wholefood, and the layout is forbidding and unpleasant. The notice board is in the dead-end corner. Motorists must spend a minimum of £2 in order to park. Hebden Bridge is a prosperous and socially-aware town, and everyone is complaining. There are much better big supermarkets (Sainsbury's and Safeways) within driving distance, so why the change?I got this response:
Our Reference HO - 60360/SC
Your comments were passed over to the United Cooperative Head Office who have informed me that since the merger, Hebden Bridge is stocking less of the Suma Range of products. However, if you require a specific item spak to the management and they will do their upmost to get some for you.
The store underwent a major refit about four months ago and the old community board was removed, in its place is a smaller Co-op notice board. With regards to the entrances of the store, one had to be closed off due to a security issue, the car park entrance was kept open as this has an access ramp for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0800 0686 727 or write to Co-operative Group, FREEPOST, MR9473, Manchester M4 8BA. Or alternatively you can visit our website at www.co-op.co.uk
Posted by Andrew Hall,
I agree whole heartedly with the sentiments in Felicity Potter's email.
The car parking charges are nothing short of scandalous. I have used the Co-op regularly, often just to buy the odd item or two. Not any longer - I object to effectively paying a £2 surcharge just because I don't want to buy £2 worth of goods.
I know it's not ecologically or economically sensible, but I have started driving to either Todmorden or Halifax to do my shopping.
I could go on about the attitude of some of the staff - an issue I have raised with the Co-op HQ, resulting in the usual anodyne reply - but that's another matter.
Suffice it to say that the Coop in Hebden Bridge is becoming complacent. It has little competition locally and has therefore little need to brush up its customer service.
What's really needed is another supermarket in town. I have written to Edwin Booth of Booths Supermarkets (a Preston based chain with a very good reputation), and he is very interested in Hebden Bridge as a possible location for one of his stores. Perhaps a few more letters from interested people might persuade him to investigate further, and give the Co-op a run for their money!
Posted by Anne,
I find it amazing that Andrew would spend money travelling to Todmorden to shop instead of paying the £2 (refundable unless you spend less than £2) at Hebden Bridge! Surely he wouldn't go to Tod to buy something worth less than £2!! And the answer is definitely not to open another supermarket in the town! We should try and improve the one we have first - like asking the manager to stock certain products. I suspect if enough people asked them to stock Suma products then they would. For instance, the Co-op in Tod stocks small tins of most products because there are a lot of single elderly people shopping there. I think the Co-op is generally a good supermarket - they follow a stricter ethical policy on buying goods than any other major chain. Though I do agree about the lack of the community noticeboard - their loss as well as ours.
Posted by Mick,
Not only does the Todmorden Co-op have a better selection of goods, but a) it's cheaper, b) you don't have to queue for 20 minutes at busy times, and c) the security guards don't frown as much. Looks like Yorkshire Co-ops could learn a lesson or two from their Lancastrian counterparts.
Posted by Robert Collins,
I think any competing supermarket would have serious difficulty getting planning permission for a free car park anywhere near the town centre.
The answer is to drive into town, park in one of the short-stay bays (still free for now) and buy what you need from the town centre shops. I agree Hebden Bridge doesn't need another supermarket, but it does need to keep supporting its long-established businesses.