Following a visit in March, where they came under fire from frustrated residents, members of the Co-operative management team returned to Stonehaven and District Community Council this week to highlight how they had addressed some of the issues raised.
Co-operative regional manager, John Kelly, opened the discussion saying that they “appreciated” being asked back. He then went on to describe some of the measures taken to improve the Co-operative stores in Stonehaven which were described in the March meeting as “appalling.” Complaints included a lack of choice in-store, empty shelves, staff attitude and prices. One of the issues which Mr Kelly spoke about addressing was the issue of heating in the store, he explained that they had spent £28,000 getting a new heating system installed in the David Street store.
He also explained that more improvements were planned as the Market Square Store is due for a refit in January. It was revealed that recently the Co-operative group had spent £1.5 million on the Stonehaven stores. He said: “I am really, really pleased and encouraged by progress and what I saw in the store when I visited tonight.” He did however accept that more can be done in the stores. He said: “We have made improvements but there is still more we can do.” The co-operative group carried out a number of surveys within Stonehaven, including an independent survey, to give them a clear view of the issues the stores experience. Of the surveys, Mr Kelly explained that one of the results of the surveys which he found “pleasing” was “the praise for staff was high.”
Community Council members and the public at the meeting accepted that improvements had been made, however they still had some concerns about the stores. One Community Council member expressed his concern over the Co-operative groups monopoly in Stonehaven and asked if they had intentions to expand further in the Town. Co-operative board member Liam Smyth addressed this issue. He explained that he would be happy to live in a place where everything you need; holidays, funerals and weekly shopping, can be provided by one company. However he did admit his view was slightly “jaundiced.” He said: “I think there is a difference in having a monopoly and behaving in a monopolistic way.” He explained that the continued investment in the stores shows they are not behaving in a monopolistic way. He also added that there were “no plans” to extend in the Town.
Another issue which was raised was the continuing issue of prices in the stores and the cost of petrol in the Town. The Co-operative representatives explained they would look into petrol prices and that they had aims regarding prices in-store.