Co-operative Retail Services is developing an own-label operation to compete with its existing supplier, the Co-operative Wholesale Society.
CRS is one of the biggest co-operative societies in Britain, with outlets nationwide and, like other societies, presently relies on CWS for its own-label Co-op branded products.
The societies each have a share in CWS, which was formed in the 1860s, to give the movement buying power and provide economies of scale.
From late autumn, CRS is expected to use its own suppliers for own-label goods, which will be branded Co-operative in line with the retailer’s new corporate identity. The products will carry the society’s new logo, and will sit alongside present Co-op products in some categories, or may replace them in others.
A CWS spokesman denies some business will disappear. He says: “The new own-label ranges will not be to the exclusion of the Co-op brand.”
The move is seen as a means of giving CRS greater flexibility and bargaining power. The society embarked on an aggressive low-pricing policy in February, which it remains committed to, despite initial obstruction from some suppliers (MW April 19).
CRS announced earlier this year it is to rebrand its stores. The two high street facias, Leo and Lo-Cost, are being dropped, and all large stores will be named Co-operative Pioneer. Smaller convenience stores will be called Co-operative Local, followed by the name of the town.