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Alex outlines Co-op’s supply chain priorities for the year ahead.

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Barcode standards agency, GS1 UK, has launched its new product data service, productDNA.

ProductDNA aims to deliver accurate and consistent data; capturing, managing and distribution information in way that is easily accessed and shared across the supply chain. The productDNA service consists of:

  • A new industry data model for suppliers to share product data with retailers
  • A cloud-based secure product catalogue
  • An independent physical product verification to ensure accuracy of product data

Easy access to data

The service covers over 150 product attributes, including ingredients, weight, dimensions, nutritional values and allergen information. Brands and suppliers own the data, and retailers have easy access to the information, ensuring that shoppers can receive accurate and up to date information about their products.

Improving efficiencies

GS1 UK is managing productDNA through its Retail Grocery Advisory Board. The board aims to provide better customer experience whilst improving efficiencies throughout the supply chain. Members include major retailers (Asda, Boots, Co-op, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose) and manufacturers (Coca Cola Enterprises, Dairy Crest, Kellogg’s, Mondelez, Müller, Nestlé, PepsiCo P&G and Unilever) in the UK.

Promoting better quality data

GS1 UK’s chief executive, Gary Lynch, commented: “The grocery sector has spent years grappling with the transfer of data. ProductDNA sets out agreed processes and data rules, based on the common need to improve product data quality and efficient sharing across the retail industry. We’re excited to have created productDNA in partnership with our members to address these issues and look forward to its adoption by the industry.”

Co-op customers in Milton Keynes can now have their groceries delivered by robot.  The Monkston branch has been trialling unaccompanied robot delivery for the past four weeks, promoting the service using targetted local social media marketing. Between 10-15 robots are being used and around 1,000 orders have been dispatched since the project went live a month ago.

Robots "understand" their environment

The robots travel at about 4mph and can deliver up to 10kg of shopping in under an hour. The robots weigh about 25kg, have six wheels and nine cameras and are equipped with a sophisticated sensor suite including radars, computer vision and ultrasonic sensors.  This allows them to understand their environment, enabling them to avoid obstructions and cross roads on their own, for example.  The Monkston store chosen for the trial is close to the premises of Starship Technologies, developers of the robots. 

How does the service work?

  1. Customers place their order via an iPhone app developed by Starship. Around 200 products can be ordered, excluding alcohol, cigarettes and frozen items.  The customer pays the usual in-store prices plus a £1 delivery fee.
  2. The order is picked and paid for by a human Starship employee (at the usual Co-op prices) who puts them into the robot.
  3. The robot sets off on its unaccompanied journey to the customer.  The customer can see where the robot is using the app.
  4. Upon reaching its destination, the customer uses the app to confirm arrival and unlock the lid to the compartment containing the shopping.

Is there a future for robot delivery?

Co-op is not the first retailer to test delivery by robot: Tesco also used a similar robot for one delivery last year.  Just Eat has also trialled the technology to deliver takeaways in South London.

The Co-op trial has met with a positive reaction from local customers with many wanting to try it out to see how it works.  There will inevitably be tweaks to make but with retailers prepared to explore new technologies to get closer to the needs of the customer we should expect to see more such activity in the future.

Hear more about Co-op’s plans for technology innovation from Chris Conway, Co-op’s head of food digital, at our Digital Commerce event on 16-17 October.

Following a month of exclusive talks, the UK's largest consumer co-operative, the Co-op Group has launched its bid to acquire the member-owned retail and wholesale group Nisa. 

The deal puts the value of Nisa's full shareholding at £137.5m which, with associated costs of £5.5m, will result in a total payment of £143m by the Co-op.  If successful, this acquisition will establish the Co-op as a significant wholesaler to independent convenience retailers; enabling it to supply 3,200 independent stores alongside its company-managed portfolio of some 2,500 stores.

Unanimously recommended by the Nisa board

The Nisa board has announced that it was unanimous in its decision to recommend the offer to the retail members.  However, its acceptance is dependent on a vote by the retailer-owners, which will take place in early November.  In the meantime Nisa will be holding a series of regional events in partnership with the Co-op to present the deal to members in detail.  Owing to the scale of the transaction the deal will also necessarily have to be approved by the Competition and Markets Authority.

Nisa to be retained as a standalone business and brand

While keys benefits to Nisa will be access to the stronger ranges of the Co-op organisation, including its full private label offer, the Co-op has signalled that it intends that Nisa will continue to operate as a separate business, focused on supporting the strengths of its independent retailer members.  The joint announcement has specified that the Co-op will respect key aspects of Nisa members' independence 'to fully source the range that best suits their stores, and to operate those stores how they want.'  But retailers will also have the opportunity to become Co-op franchisees should they choose.

Staggered payments to retain Nisa retailer loyalty

In order to retain members in the aftermath of the completion of the deal the share pay-out to Nisa retailers will be spread over three years, supplemented by additional rebates payable over four years.

Peter Hartley, Chairman, Nisa Retail commented:

'Nisa has made significant strides in recent years, we firmly believe that the combination with the Co-op is in the best interests of our members.  The Co-op offers the right blend of buying capability, convenience expertise and respect for the heritage of our business.'

Jo Whitfield, Food CEO, the Co-op Group said:

'This acquisition provides the opportunity to create an even greater and more compelling member-led presence within the UK convenience sector.  Co-op and Nisa have achieved so much on their own to support local communities, but together I believe we can go from strength to strength.'


An essential summary of supply chain priorities, latest network developments, and other key statistics for Co-op.
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Download our new infographic to discover the latest trends among Co-op shoppers that will help you get closer to the largest convenience retailer in the UK.

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26-27 September 2018, London
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