Photo by Lee Evans Photography
As of September 2019, the SU Shop – located in Parkwood and the Plaza – will be rebranded as Cooperative mini-stores, Kent Union confirms.
The supermarket chain, with over 7,000 stores strong across the UK, is set to collaborate with the University of Kent’s student union amidst criticism from both staff and students.
The current stores, previously called Essentials before a rebranding as the SU Shop last year, is primarily being stocked with products from the Cooperative Food Group, though the management is overseen by Kent Union who is responsible for the pricing of products and advertisements.
The management of the store will remain in the hands of the Union, but the commercial move will mean lower prices. Stores will also no longer stock University of Kent merchandise.
Current Kent Union President Aaron Thompson has stated in response to the move that “I’m really excited that Kent Union will be partnering with Co-op” and that one of the biggest issues that students gave feedback on last year was that store prices were too high.
It is believed that that the move will “offer Kent students better value for money, a bigger product range, and even bigger discounts”.
The newly redeveloped stores will be the second Cooperative Group-partnered franchise to be present in Canterbury. The stores are expected to stock the full range of foods on offer at Co-op stores, including Fairtrade goods, international products, and an in-store bakery.
Both student union stores will also receive further refurbishments, with the introduction of 15 self-scan tills and a larger focus on customer service in the future.
The stores will still be run by Kent Union staff and will become part of a larger development program aimed at refurbishing existing Kent Union facilities.
Andrew Duffield, the Head of Retail for Kent Union and manager of the Student Union Shop for the past two years, has alleviated concerns over the employment of students at the stores following the acquisition, saying: “Employing students remains a key priority for Kent Union, helping them fund their studies and develop skills that will support them in the job market when they graduate.”
The new acquisition also gives holders of TOTUM student discount cards a 10% discount off products bought at each store, and members can also receive a 5% reward when purchasing Co-op branded products, with a further 1% donated to local charity causes such as the Hyde Park Picture House and the Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre (HEART) Project.
Martin Rogers, Co-op’s Head Media Representative has stated that “at the heart of the Co-op it is about connecting communities, bringing people together, and making a difference.”