What's in store...

We have put together a great line-up for the 2019 Co-operative Retail Conference, taking place from 8-10 March in Cheshire. Packed full of expert insight and best practice from home and overseas, read on to fully discover what's in store:

Friday 8 March

18.00 - First timers' session. Discover more about the weekend ahead, meet Co-operatives UK colleagues and fellow delegates

18.30 - Drinks reception

19.00 - Farmers Market style buffet dinner

Saturday 9 March

09.30 - Welcome. A short introduction from Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK

09.45 - Remaking retail: James Walton, IGD
The ever-popular Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) will kick off the programme. James will examine how UK retail will be affected by Brexit and what this means for co-operatives retailers. IGD's Chief Economist will also focus on cultural shifts including increased demand for healthier options and changing views on animal ethics. There will be a further focus on how technology advances are changing the way we address sustainability, resources and labour

10.45 - Refreshment break

11.15 - Who makes the decisions in a co-op? Gareth Swarbrick, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH)
RBH - the UK's first tenant and employee co-owned mutual housing society - has produced its first corporate strategy in a radically different way - but why should retail societies care? Delegates will hear about how a pioneering organisation is using traditional ideas around member-ownership and democracy. Who sets the strategy? What's the role of members and how does the democratic process work? This interactive session, led by RBH's Chief Executive, lifts the lid on a pioneering approach inspired by the original co-op pioneers

12.15 - Innovations and new initiatives: Phil Ponsonby, Midcounties; Lee Hammond, East of England, Hannah Gallimore, Central England and Simone Connolly, FareShare East Midlands
Three co-operative societies will share three unique initiatives. From a fresh approach to food waste, to sourcing your food, to developments in personal security services, there's plenty to take inspiration from in this truly collaborative session

13.15 - Lunch break

14.15 - Challenges and opportunities in the funeral sector: Alison Close, The Co-op; James Blackburn, Scotmid and Jon Levett, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
How are digital marketing, pre-pay funerals and increased government interest impacting on the sector? Industry experts will examine how the funeral market is changing - and how a range of co-operative societies are meeting new challenges and opportunities

15.15 - An American (grocery market) tale: Stephen McDow, Keystone Development Center
Large retailers like Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Target - plus local grocery chains - are all competing in the United States' grocery sector. In the face of fierce competition, grocery co-ops are leaning on their co-op difference and/or developing innovative ways to attract a younger custom base. Can the UK's retail societies learn from their American counterparts? With examples including Durham Co-op Market and Weavers Way Co-op, delegates will benefit from insight into an American response to challenging retail conditions.

15.45 - Refreshment break

16.00 - Show me the money - the future of payment systems: Stephen Gill and Richard Bridges, VME Coop
Would your co-op like to eliminate credit card processing fees and commissions? VME Coop, whose software runs in nine of the 13 independent coops, will take delegates on a journey taking in the payment systems of the future. From innnovative fintech (financial technology) apps, which can eliminate credit card fees and/or allow payment via a phone swipe, to checkout free shopping through Amazon Go, the payment landscape is changing - and the co-op movement needs to stay up to date. Stephen and Richard will also take a look at reward-based shopping and promotions - again through apps - as well as consumer payment trends (with a focus on Millennials and Generation Z)

16.40 - BT’s worst kept secret will change your business forever: Nick Thompson, The Phone Co-op
Businesses throughout the UK are reliant on phone lines that were invented in the 1800s. They decay, are expensive to run and they break. These lines will become obsolete in 2025 when BT switch off all PSTN and ISDN lines. This effects everything in your business that is reliant on telephone lines and broadband, from POS tills to card readers and from phones to payroll systems. You need to be prepared for this change and in this session learn exactly what the BT IP Transition means; how it effects you; how to futureproof your stores; and how this change can help you save money

17.00 - Day one close

19.00 - Drinks reception followed by a three course dinner and charity raffle

21.00 - Evening Entertainment from Dexter

Sunday 10 March

09.00Welcome. Nick Matthews, of Co-operatives UK, introduces day two

09.15 - Co-operative case studies. More details to follow

10.15 - Associated benefits - how national bodies adapt to meet member needs. Doug O'Brien, National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA); Robin Fieth, the Building Societies Association (BSA)
What do other national bodies do to support their members? With examples from the UK and the United States, we'll be giving delegates the lowdown from home examples and those further afield

11.00 - How to support co-operatives to be the best they can be? Facilitated by Nick Matthews, of Co-operatives UK
We recognise that our oldest and largest members are facing competitive pressures in the retail sector - and we are all facing rapid change and uncertainty in the wider economy. We are running this session in conjunction with other key movement organisations to ensure delegates can inform and influence the future direction and support provided by these co-op institutions

12.30 - Retail Conference close. Summary and conference close from Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK

12.30 - Lunch (take-away or buffet in restaurant)

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