Retail veteran Matt Atkinson comes aboard Co-op as chief membership officer

The Co-op's membership scheme has a new leader

The Co-op has appointed Matt Atkinson as chief membership officer in a move that will see the industry veteran steer a substantial pillar of the company’s financial and social good model.

The membership scheme gives participants 5% cash back on purchases in addition to delivering 1% of spend back into local communities, a position that is arguably the retailer’s defining trait in a saturated market of price-cutting rivals. It could serve as a weapon as the supermarket looks to make up ground lost to the likes of Aldi and Lidl. With the hire, Co-op will look to substantially grow its reported eight million members to bolster growth in its efforts to dominate the convenience market.

Atkinson takes up responsibility for membership, digital, data, brand marketing, communications and community and campaigning, bring to the fore experience as chief marketing officer of SAGA and more pertinently, senior digital and marketing roles at Tesco. He left Tesco in 2014 at a turbulent time for the brand and following his move, the chief creative officer role was scrapped. Further to this, the entire management team was rejigged to put in place an effective charm offensive to combat damage caused by its profit over estimation scandal.

Co-op has been heaping importance on its membership team for some time now. In 2016, it made a statement of intent with the hiring of Rufus Olins, chief executive of the NewsWorks as group director of community and campaigns repositioning the membership programme as a key pillar of the once-ailing supermarket’s revival. This accompanied a rebrand to implant it into the centre of communities and direct people towards the memberships.

On the hire, Co-op chief executive Steve Murrells, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Matt to our Co-op to help us on our journey to become the most loved membership business in the UK. Our new membership is now a year old and in the first half of our financial year paid back £35m to members and their local communities. Matt’s experience and expertise will build on this, making membership even more compelling and returning our Co-op to a campaigning movement.”

“Big business is often accused of taking money out of communities – we are putting it back in as we champion a better way of doing business for our members and their communities,” proclaimed Richard Pennycook, chief executive of the Co-op, at the time.

Atkinson will join the company in the coming weeks prior to joining full-time in January.

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