CWS will rollout its new Market Town concept to more than 400 supermarkets by 2002 at a cost of over £200 million.

The announcement is marked with the opening of the retailer's new Market Town supermarket in Maltby in South Yorkshire last week. The £3 million, 14,000 sq ft store will be the model for both new and refitted CWS supermarkets across the UK.

A total of 30 stores will be completed by the year end and CWS will invest £45 million in converting more than 100 supermarkets in 2001, completing the 400 plus Market Town store programme the following year.

The concept was first introduced in Aberlour in Scotland last December and has been refined following trials this year at three new stores and eight refitted supermarkets in Scotland and the Nottingham area. Sales at the stores have exceeded expectations by an average 20 per cent.

The new format is designed to offer facilities, services and a product range expected in much larger stores and combines a modern shopping environment with a strong local identity. Its introduction is in response to extensive customer research which clearly showed consumers seeking the alternative to superstore shopping offered by the Co-op's local supermarkets but demanding an enhanced service particularly on range and the provision of a modern shopping environment.

Key elements of the Market Town concept include:
  • A comprehensive range to fulfil the food shopping requirements of most customers and eliminate the need for them to travel beyond their own community to larger stores. For example, the fresh foods range has been increased by 30 per cent, with a larger choice of chilled produce, ready meals and snacks while the beers, wines and spirits offer is typically greater than in similar sized supermarkets.

  • A modern look with a new interior and exterior image designed by leading brand consultants Enterprise IG with colour detailing, lower fixtures and fittings for easier customer access, straightforward and extensive signage, colourful graphics highlighting the Co-op position on issues such as animal welfare and food labelling, and new staff uniforms.

  • Strong local identity with exterior signage featuring the name of the town and store exteriors designed to complement their location and encourage ownership of the store by the community.

  • Facilities and services shoppers usually associate with larger stores such as financial products, baby changing, toilets and cash machine.
"We have identified the market town sector as a key area of growth for our business and it is central to our retail strategy. The new concept will drive our business forward in this sector where we are dominant, presenting a modern image to shoppers, bringing vitality to the High Street and delivering service beyond the expectations of customers," said CWS Retail Controller Malcolm Hepworth.

"It has met with universal enthusiasm from customers, managers and staff. Its modernity, local identity and offer not only appeals to existing Co-op shoppers but to new customers who may not have previously considered using our services," added Mr Hepworth.

Features of the new Maltby store, which employs 60 staff, include a Post Office, cash machine, parent and child facilities, customer toilet, provision for disabled shoppers, parking, delicatessen, Cuisine de France, wide choice of fresh foods, full range of grocery products, and non-food ranges such as CDs, videos and mobile phones.