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Co-op Retail Conference 2023

Co-op Retail 2022 stage

The Co-op Retail Conference attracts leaders, managers and directors from the UK's leading co-operative retail societies due to its compelling content and status as an unrivalled learning and networking opportunity. 

The Co-operative Retail Conference 2023 took place from Friday 24 March to Sunday 26 March at De Vere Cranage Estate in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire. We assembled an incredible range of speakers including The Co-op Group CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq; IGD's UK Insight Manager, Dan Gillett; and an international speaker from Coop Denmark. An incredibly inspiring and informative event, you can read about Co-op Retail Conference 2023 here.

Friday 24 March

09.30-12.00: Consumer Council meeting (by invitation only)

12.00-18.00: CEO & Presidents lunch and forum (by invitation only)

15.00-onwards: Conference registration opens and bedroom check-in opens

16.30-18.00: Policy workshop facilitated by James Wright, Policy Lead at Co-operatives UK. This workshop is a fantastic opportunity to help shape Co-operatives UK's policy work over the coming months and years. How can we further level the playing field for co-operatives? Which specific issues need addressing? How do we increase our policy impact and reach? Insight from delegates will directly impact on our policy work and campaigns. 

18.30-19.00: First timers' session

19.00-19.30: Drinks reception

19.30-late: Networking buffet dinner

Highlights from Co-op Retail Conference 2023

Saturday 25 March

9.00-9.10: Welcome

Don Morris, Chair Co-operatives UK

A short welcome to attendees from Chair of Co-operatives UK, Don Morris.

9.10-10.10: State of the nation – outlook for the UK market in a cost-of-living crisis

Dan Gillett, Shopper Insight Manager, IGD

We're delighted to welcome back the ever-popular Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) for Saturday's opening session. Using IGD’s latest UK trends for 2023 and 2024, IGD's UK Insight Manager, Dan Gillett, will take a deep dive into the outlook for the UK food and grocery market through the cost-of-living crisis. Using IGD’s latest macro-economic and consumption forecasts, Dan will explore how the industry and consumers will be impacted by financial challenges, legislation and emerging trends.

10.30-11.10: Shirine Khoury-Haq plenary and Q&A

Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO, Co-op Group

The CEO of the UK's largest co-operative will deliver a keynote at this year's conference. As businesses and consumers wrestle with the cost-of-living crisis, Shirine Khoury-Haq will unveil key strategies for the Co-op Group in 2023. The plenary will be followed by a Q&A.

11.10-11.50: CEO panel discussion 'Co-ops: the original ethical brands – maintaining position in a cluttered marketplace'

Matt Hood, Managing Director of Co-op Food, Co-op Group; Doug Field, CEO, East of England Co-operative; plus surprise guest speaker

A panel discussion, chaired by Co-operatives UK CEO Rose Marley, on how to maintain position as ethical leaders in a cluttered marketplace. The panel will also explore the challenges of leadership.

12.10-13.00: Co-operatives: Making our mark

Don Morris, Radstock Co-operative; Sheree Hatton, Suma; and Rob Harrison, Ethical Consumer (pre-record video)

How do marks and accreditations affect consumer attitudes to products and services? What is the opportunity for co‑operatives to introduce consumers to the co‑op marque and 'owned by our members'? Could the marque become a unifying symbol on products – helping consumers understand what differentiates co‑operatives?

14.00-15.00: Member engagement through digital innovation

Alison Bain and Parm Kalirai, Midcounties Co-op; and Anders Mittag, Lobyco A/S

Digital innovation and transformation is critical in terms of shaping how people interact with co-operatives - including member engagement and participation as well as commercial aspects. So what do we mean by digital transformation and why is it relevant? Alison Bain and Parm Kalirai will take delegates through Midcounties' digital transformation journey, including the drivers for change; actions and innovations; early impacts and benefits; and future plans.

Coop Denmark is the leading consumer goods retailer in Denmark. A co-operative, it is owned by almost two million members and and has redefined customers' in-store experience through digital innovation. The customer loyalty platform, Lobyco, is the backbone of Coop Denmark's digital ecosystem. Lobyco's Anders Mittag will cover the steps Coop Denmark has taken (and sector trends in Europe more widely) including a focus on why the retailer's digital focus has been on economic and commercial benefits.

15.10-15.50: The truth about youth

Dan Sodergren, Great Marketing Works; Jeevan Jones, Co-operative National Members’ Council; Daniel Cox, Co-operative College; and Aysha Khalid, Co-op Group

There's a disengagement – broadly speaking – between younger people and co-operatives. Our research found that over half of young people (54%) cannot name a single co-operative while just 14% can name three or more. It translates to the boardroom with less than 8% of co-operative retail society directors aged between 26 and 41 (and none 25 or younger).

Yet co-operatives and younger people are a perfect fit. Co-operatives meet the demand for more ownership and control; for values-driven business; for good, secure jobs; for action on climate. Strong evidence from Co-operatives UK and the Institute of Economic Affairs backs up this view. So why do we have poor awareness and disengagement? How can we turn the tide? Are co-operative societies doing enough? And does it matter that engagement is low?

This session, featuring provocations from inside and outside the movement, is designed to test boundaries. It will explore the value of youth engagement, including what we're getting wrong (and right) and how we can improve without alienating other core audiences. Importantly, the session will address how we create a movement of the future and what that might look like for young people.  

16.00-16.45: Co-ops and the spirit of co-operation

Pete Westall, Bright Future Co-operative; Sarah Pullen, Reach Solutions; and Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-operative (via pre-record video)

We explore modern co‑operation and the impact it is having on individuals, in communities and on the UK economy. Hear inspiring examples of the spirit of co-operation in action, including how the Bright Future Co-operative is addressing modern slavery and Central England Co‑op's work to ensure the in-store experience impacts customers and members positive ways.

Delegates will also be the first to hear about our exciting new Co-op Fortnight campaign. Societies will be invited to participate – in the spirit of co-operation – and communicate our co-operative difference collectively in June.

16.45-17.15: An update from the Co-operative Party

Joe Fortune, Co-operative Party

An update from the Co-operative Party on campaigns currently running and their impact. 

17.20: Day one close

18:30-19.00: Drinks reception

19.00-late: Gala dinner - featuring TV presenter Chris Bavin - followed by charity raffle and entertainment 

See photos from Co-op Retail Conference 2023

Sunday 26 March

9.30-9.35: Day two welcome 

Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK

9.35-10.50: UN Sustainable Goals workshop

Blase Lambert, Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH); and Jim Holt, Agitprop Design/Wayshaper

A workshop on the UN Sustainable Goals and what they mean for your society. In the session, Blase Lambert will focus on the work of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing in creating its Wayshaper SDG toolkit and advice and how this toolkit can be useful to your societies. 

11.00: Day two close

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