Nisa members have given their feedback on the Co-op Group’s proposed takeover offer at regional roadshows held by Nisa and Co-op management last week.
The Co-op and the Nisa board will be mulling over members’ concerns and preparing answers to direct questions ahead of the second round of member meetings, scheduled to start next week, before the final membership vote on 13 November.
David Nice, who owns two stores in Essex, said the meeting he attended was “generally positive” and that he was reassured over the terms of the deal.
“The Co-op suits Nisa and it increases our buying power to £7bn. We need to go or grow, and this is a really good fit. Most members seem to agree with me, but you’ll always get some who want to argue.”
He said he had been reassured over the pricing equity of Co-op own brand products. “Products will go to Nisa at the same prices as Co-op stores. It’s just down to Nisa and the way they distribute,” David added.
“I’d rather the deferred share payments were over two years rather than three. But overall I was really impressed with Jo [Whitfield, Co-op chief executive]. She put the points over very succinctly.”
Paul Cheema, co-owner of two Nisa Malcolm’s stores in Coventry, was also upbeat about the regional meetings, and argued that consolidation was inevitable.
“The roadshows definitely helped. I think members understand the offer better now, as well as the options such as the franchise model,” he said.
“You have to look forward and ask what is the future of convenience retailing and what can consolidation bring for us? It’s a scary time right now, and I think it’s inevitable that we will end up partnering with one of the big grocers, so we need to look forward to see where that can take us.
“The Co-op has a really good fresh range, and the younger shopper does find the Co-op attractive for its values and its loyalty card.
“As a former Costcutter retailer I remember the damage when Costcutter and Nisa split and P&H took over. I’ve lived it, and it’s clear that you have to work with the right people, with a strong own label and a supply chain that works.”
Rav Garcha, who owns five Nisa stores in the West Midlands, said he was still unsure how he would vote.
“At the presentation they said the 1% rebate would only apply to sales up to June this year, which seems unfair if you double your volume over the next couple of years. It’s ambiguous though because in the literature it says up to 2020.
“Either way it’s not enough to invest in our stores, which we need to do to gear up to a new supply chain delivered in a different way, and £20,000 isn’t enough to start with.”
He said the Co-op “had the right intentions” over price equity of own brand products. “They’re trying to give us the same costs but it’s all down to the cost of delivery. Co-op own label will be price capped but there’s no limit on how cheap we can sell it.
“Nisa’s Heritage range won’t stick around for long but that makes sense,” Rav added.
Russell Jenkins, co-owner of Milverton Stores in Taunton, Somerset, said: “My wife went to the South West meeting. The message that came back was the retailers are beginning to realise what the choice really means and I think an awful lot of the older longer serving members who have a bit of an emotional attachment are slowly coming to realise that it’s not a choice between the status quo and the Co-op. They are beginning to realise that what is on the table is a choice between the Co-op and a Nisa without any real prospects.
“The emotional attachment is beginning to wear thin and people are starting to look at it a little more clear headedly.”