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Bouncing Back Q&A: Joe Turner, Co-op

Published:  11 August, 2021

It’s been a one-of-a-kind 18 months for the trade. Here, as we begin to push into the second half of the second year of the pandemic, Harpers is catching up with businesses to find out how they’re focusing on recovering from the shock, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

We continue our series with views from Joe Turner, category buying manager at Co-op.

What are your priorities and predictions for the second half of 2021?

Our priority is to focus on offering a great selection of quality wines for our customers and members and I predict that the UK off-trade will continue with this focus and will move away somewhat from value-led propositions. This is a great opportunity to be proud of what a fantastic, award-winning wine range we have at Co-op.

What kind of Christmas are you anticipating and how are you prepping?

A time to celebrate and potentially more-so than ever with lockdown restrictions continuing to ease, meaning customers and members will be looking for those indulgent, celebration and sharing wines.

Typically, we see our average selling price increase during December as customers look to treat themselves, friends and family to a more special bottle. We know value is still hugely important to our customers, so we’ll ensure our great value wines have equal presence in store so we have a range to suit all of our customers.

Do you anticipate making a full recovery from the pandemic? What timeframes are realistic?

We continue to work closely with all our suppliers and it’s thanks to these strong relationships that we can continue to serve our communities.

How heavily have you been impacted by staffing issues?

Colleagues routinely self-isolate if they experience symptoms but on the whole absence levels in our food stores and depots due to self-isolation is at a very low single-digit percentage.

Are you anticipating more Covid-related restrictions?

Our priority is to ensure our customers and colleagues are safe and we will continue to work closely with the government and officials.

How have drinking habits changed post-lockdown?

During lockdown and particularly with the closure of the hospitality industry, sales of beer, wine and spirits spiked as households recreated their favourite bar tipples at home. The most significant impact across the whole alcohol industry has been on beer and cider sales as pubs and restaurants would usually take 50% of beer volume produced in the UK. In order to meet demand, grocery retailers are picking up 45% of this lost volume in a bid to also reallocate products destined for pubs.

Post-lockdown, we’re continuing to see significant sales in fizz (both Prosecco and Champagne) as customers look for reasons to celebrate at home, potentially hosting small groups and get-togethers that they’ve missed out on.

Similarly, the ‘lockdown trend’ of bigger pack sizes has continued with Co-op’s Bag In Box sales at a record-high.

Lastly, if you could make one change in government tomorrow, what would you choose?

We’re interested to see the outcome of the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement and if this results in cost savings being passed on to customers either through price directly, or an increase in quality of product.

Quick-fire questions:

USA or OZ?

Oz. The UK-Australia FTA ought to help drive this country within the wine category!

Port or Sherry?

Both! Port never ceases to impress and the increase in trendy urban sherry bars means there’s a bright future here, too!


English bubbles or Champagne?

English bubbles. I’m increasingly impressed by the popularity and quality of English fizz


Go-to drink to watch with the Olympics / tennis/ football?

A glass of cool-climate Pinot Noir is surely the every-occasion wine?