Co-op bosses: Stonehaven stores “could do better”

CO-OP bosses have said that their stores in Stonehaven “could do better”, after facing criticism from locals.

Representatives from the Co-operative attended a meeting of Stonehaven and District communtiy council on Tuesday to hear residents complaints about the four Stonehaven stores, in particular the largest store on David Street.

Complaints included a lack of choice in-store, empty shelves, staff, the quality of fresh produce and high prices.

Stonehaven resident Chris Stirk told bosses: “I have found the service appalling and the prices are ridiculously high. I don’t go to the David Street store at all as the selection is appalling.” She then went on to criticise the Market Square Co-op: “In the last nine visits to the shop when I got to the till it did not add up to what your prices on the shelves were. What should be a two-minute shop turns into a ten minute catastrophe. I am very proud of Stonehaven, I love it that is why I moved here. You have a beautiful old building at the Market Square and all that people see when they walk past is grey panels and dirt.”

Resident Phyllis Cavanagh said that she had found the fresh produce went off within hours of leaving the David Street store, and added that the shop was always cold. She said: “I find the atmosphere is unpleasant and it is very cold in the store. Because of the cold environment, often when I buy fresh produce within 12 hours of leaving the shop it has gone off. The residents of Stonehaven deserve better.”

Regional operations manager John Kelly said: “We are aware that we haven’t been at our best, particularly after the re-fit. There have been glitches and we could have done a better job. We are not here to defend ourselves, we have come to listen to what you have to say and hopefully move forward. I am sure that the store managers are not delighted to hear this level of criticism and we are not going to defend that.”

Mr Kelly told Ms Cavanagh that she was “absolutely right” to point out that the store was cold, and said that the heating system was set to be fixed within the next week at a cost of £6,500.

He said: “The heating has been malfunctioning since the re-fit six months ago. We have no defence and it is simply not good enough. It is in hand, but it has taken far too long to get resolved.”

Mr Kelly said that the Co-op is the fifth largest retailer in the country and explained that it wasn’t in a strong enough position to compete with larger stores over prices. He said that they had seen business drop by 30% since Tesco opened a store at Newtonhill.

Community Councillor Peter Greig said: “The eyes of Stonehaven are on you now and it’s up to you to perform. You have no competition and should be striving to be the best instead of sitting back and saying why should we bother we have no competition.”

Local Co-op Board member Mr Liam Smythe said that they would take onboard the comments and suggested that they return to the community council in a few months time to report back on the progress they have made.