Midlands Co-op gears up to sell more online

The Midlands Co-operative, which runs 400 retail outlets, has begun a programme to rationalise and modernise its websites as it gears up to sell more...

The Midlands Co-operative, which runs 400 retail outlets, has begun a programme to rationalise and modernise its websites as it gears up to sell more products online.

The group, which has more than 300 registered domain names and 25 websites offering electrical goods, travel and other services, plans to merge sites, add videos and technology to personalise the content to individual shoppers.

It plans to expand its online electrical retail store, which has been running as a pilot for over a year, by increasing the range of products on offer and making it more accessible to customers.

One option is to put kiosks in Co-op stores to allow customers who may not have internet access to order non-food items and have them delivered either to their home or the store.

"A lot of customers still shop in stores, so we are looking at kiosks so that a customer can look online in store and see a wider range of electrical products," said Sarah Benfield, web services manager at Midlands Co-operative.

The group plans to create other transactional web sites and is considering offer groceries online. It also plans to upgrade its travel web sites.

"Our travel division has 12 difference sites, offering tourist holidays. We also have City Break, Disney and Cruises. The plan is to consolidated those to strengthen the brand," she said.

The group plans to roll out an online HR service internally, which will allow the Co-op's 8,000 staff to book holidays, complete appraisals and check their pay slips online.

"It will have a huge impact for business. It powers managers to book annual leave in a more efficient manner. And they won't be pushing paper around," said Benfield.

The project will pay for itself within a year, she said.

Separately, the group plans to roll out a retail system in its stores which will be complete by the second quarter next year.

It has virtualised 50% of the windows servers in its datacentre, and aims to virtualise another 25% over the next two to three years, as the hardware reaches the end of its life

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