Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil is calling on the Co-operative to come to Barra to explain why goods in smaller stores are considerably more expensive than other stores in the Outer Hebrides. Mr MacNeil has previously asked the Co-operative to engage with customers on the island and despite meeting with a representative, the situation remains the same.
Angus Brendan MacNeil said: “Previous investigations by my staff have shown large price variations on everyday goods such as bread, pasta, fruit etc within stores in the Outer Hebrides. I have seen this illustrated recently in the difference between the price of the humble Jaffa Cake, which is currently on a ½ price offer.
“Within the two stores in Stornoway, there is a price difference of three pence, the large store charging 64 pence compared to 67 pence in the smaller store and I am aware of smaller stores charging 74 pence. This price differential illustrates our concerns with the Co-operative.
“The Co-operative built a store in Castlebay which is simply too small, questions have to asked if this was done deliberately so as they could charge higher prices, as they have their own internal banding for stores. In February this year, I met with representatives asking for the Castlebay store to be reclassified to a superstore rather than a convenience store.
“Staff working in the stores are in no way responsible for this, they do a great job. However, people in Barra are not happy with the Coop generally , this is why I am calling on the Co-operative to justify their pricing structure in the Outer Hebrides.
“This is being done in a fragile rural area. We have the highest instances of fuel poverty, wages are generally lower than average and the cost of living higher. The Co-operative needs to treat small islands and communities fairly.
“The Co-operative has a loyal customer base in the Outer Hebrides; questions need to be answered as to why they treat some customers so poorly.”
The Gazette put Mr MacNeil’s concerns to the Co-op and they conceded that the prices were different due to operating costs.
A spokesperson for The Co-operative said:
“In common with other major retailers, The Co-operative’s prices differ across its food store network. Operating costs vary in different locations, and smaller stores are proportionally more costly to run than larger ones. For example, in Stornoway, our convenience store in Cromwell Street does have some higher prices than our much bigger store in Macaulay Road, although a large number of everyday products are the same price in both, and indeed across all our stores.
“The Co-operative does not apportion costs on a geographic basis, so customers in more remote areas, such as the Western Isles, do not have to pay any premium for the additional transport costs involved.”