A co-operative franchise package is going from strength to strength with 12 new stores opened in 2019.

Southern Co-op, the regional, independent co-operative which operates more than 200 convenience food stores across the south of England, now has 34 franchise stores operating under the ‘Welcome’ fascia.

A new format look and feel was launched in January 2019 and closely followed a new EPOS system in 2018 which enabled a new focus on opening up the franchise to new partnerships. As a result, the franchise operations team took on five new partnerships last year and now has a total of 20 franchisees.

Mike Fitton, Southern Co-op’s Franchise Business Manager, said: “We are proud to have attracted a range of experienced retailers to our co-operative family who have all welcomed our points of difference. As well as being an ethical retailer with community values, we also offer more personalised support which starts as soon as they sign up and continues every day via our dedicated Franchise Operations Managers. As a collective, our franchisees are experiencing very positive like for like increases across all departments and we will continue to work closely with them to see where we can improve further.”

Welcome franchise stores are currently spread across the south from Bristol to Kent and into central London.

Of the franchise stores, a total of eight are petrol forecourts and a further five are operating self scan checkouts.

The franchisees are also encouraged to supply customers with local produce to compliment the Co-op range which has been gradually expanding with the addition of COOK’s frozen ready meals across a number of stores.

Mike Fitton added: “We’re already working with new and existing franchisees to add more Welcome stores across the south. We’ll be progressing even further in the new decade offering our franchisees the best of the Co-op product ranges whilst keeping their independence and ability to make local decisions.”

Franchisee Prateek Shukla, who moved to Welcome in 2018 and opened a second Welcome in Swiss Cottage, London, in April 2019, said: “Since changing to Welcome a year ago my year-on-year sales are up by 20% with minimal conversion costs for me, so the decision to transfer my second store to the Welcome fascia was a no brainer. I’ve lowered my retail prices and maintained my % margin and increased my cash profit! My customers love the new offer.”

To find out more about Southern Co-op’s franchise opportunities, visit www.southernco-op.co.uk/food/franchise