The Co-operative Group is today implementing the most dramatic range change to its beers, wines and spirits shelves that its 4,000-plus stores have seen in years.

The changes follow more than nine months of consumer insight, research and planning, with the Co-operative introducing a new, multi-facetted ranging format to its stores.  

In an exclusive interview, Simon Cairns, BWS category manager at The Co-operative, told OLN: “We have a duty to keep the high street alive.

“We want to be the best at convenience retailing, therefore we need to ensure we have the right range, in the right store, depending on our widely-varying customer base.

“Until now, we have worked with one model, scaling up towards the bigger stores. Over the last few months, we have undertaken a massive amount of research, gleaned from membership data, and industry insights. What’s right for a city centre store isn’t necessarily right for a more rural community, where customer needs may be different.”

The BWS department is the launchpad for this corporate initiative, which will subsequently roll out across all categories.

With more than 20 clusters defined by customer shopping patterns, the wine team aims to get the best mix  to suit each store.  

Cairns said: “In an affluent, but older community, we need to focus more on a premium Old World offering, with choice across a range of price points, such as Rioja and Bordeaux. In city centres, and younger, student-based areas, the mix will be different.

“We have grouped the stores by customer attitude and shopping pattern, rather than simple demographics.” 

This is exemplified by the range escalation of  the premium Chateau Senejac, Haut Medoc, at £16.99, from 124 stores to more than 800, based on customer behaviour.

Stores have a window of two weeks to implement the range changes, depending on the labour model. 

However, the strategy has been in place for months for store-specific delisted lines. 

“At this stage, we have achieved almost 90% of sell through on delisted lines, while maintaining availability at over 98%,” said Cairns. “The stage is set for the new launch. The store teams have bought into this process, and understand why we are doing this. Consumer shopping habits have changed. The Co-Operative need to be able to provide them with the right products for their daily needs.”

Unlike the majority of major supermarkets, range numbers have not been culled, nor has the supply base. 

“We have just under 400 wines in our range,” said Cairns. “We have adapted the mix to suit our customer requirements, and have worked closely with suppliers to deliver the best selection of wines to suit our varying customer base. Our aim is to provide the very best quality at every level, and we won’t compromise on this.

“We’ve been bullish in removing duplication, and introducing new wines, which we believe fit the needs of our customers at every given price point. However, it’s less about removing a raft of wines, and replacing them, than about ensuring the right wines are in the right stores.”