Lincolnshire Co-op has announced plans to close its two food distribution centre sites in Lincoln, and has begun a consultation with the staff affected.
The proposed move will enable the Society to offer its food store customers more choice and will lead to significant savings, which can be invested in new and improved services and keeping prices competitive.
The two distribution centres in Pioneer Way and Whisby Road relay ambient goods - such as tins, packets and bottles - to Lincolnshire Co-op’s 83 food stores.
Fresh and frozen deliveries come from a Nottinghamshire-based depot, part of a national distribution network which serves other co-operative societies.
It is proposed that this network will take over the distribution of ambient goods to Lincolnshire Co-op food stores from Monday 11th September. Combining the two delivery streams will be more efficient.
The Society would still work with local suppliers and wholesalers to supply locally-sourced goods to its outlets.
111 distribution and office staff are at risk of redundancy and a support centre has been set up at the site to help colleagues during the consultation process. Human resources staff will be available to answer queries daily.
The support centre will run sessions from JobCentre Plus and the National Careers Services, host presentations from other employers in the area and offer free training sessions and CV writing workshops. Local job vacancies will also be circulated weekly.
Lincolnshire Co-op hopes to be able to redeploy some of the colleagues at risk.
Chief Retail Officer Mark Finn said: “The difficult decision to close our food distribution centres is not one we have embarked on lightly. However, we’re confident that this is the right decision for the Society because it will lead to significant savings, which we can invest elsewhere.
“It does not in any way reflect on our hard-working colleagues, who we thank for their efforts over the years.
“We are setting up a support centre on site to enable each of our colleagues to get advice on their options, explore other employment opportunities and benefit from training. We also aim to redeploy as many of the staff as we are able to.
“Lincolnshire Co-op is more than 150 years old. During that time, we have changed and reshaped our business to ensure we continue to be successful, recording strong performances which enable us to invest in our services and the community.
“Recently, we’ve seen a shift in what our customers want. They come to us for fresh and frozen food, such as stocking up on fruit and vegetables or picking up a meal for that night.
“These means we’ve been changing the mix of products found in our food stores, with more emphasis on fresh and frozen goods rather than tins, packets and bottles.
“As our demand for the fresh and frozen goods increases, it’s more efficient for us to combine the two separate delivery streams.”
Mr Finn said the decision would help Lincolnshire Co-op provide food store customers with more options and a better service in the future.
“We will have access to a much larger range and it means customers will see a wider variety of products. We also hope to reduce the number of lorries visiting our outlets,” he said.
The move will also save Lincolnshire Co-op significant amounts – over £1m per year – which can be invested into new facilities, improving existing services and keeping prices competitive.
Upcoming investments include new food stores on Lincoln’s Newark Road and in Morton, near Bourne. Investment in both outlets is over £2.4m and the stores will employ 30 people between them when they open in 2018.
In June, Lincolnshire Co-op closed its butchery production facility, which was next to the distribution centre on the Pioneer Way site. There were 26 redundancies.
The cost of processing the Society’s own meat range became unviable and now Lincolnshire Co-op sources local meat from a variety of county suppliers.
Both the Pioneer Way and Whisby Road sites are owned by Lincolnshire Co-op and alternative uses and future developments will be explored over coming weeks.