Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 9th December 2015
A problem with its computer systems has seen the supermarket chain Co-op offering 20 per cent discounts at dozens of its stores in the East of England.
The retailer had been aiming to offer the discount at a single store in Clacton but computer problems meant the discounts were automatically applied at 140 outlets across Essex and in the nearby counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Despite the issue being spotted within a matter of hours, the accidental discounts continued to be applied and are thought to have cost the Co-op in the region of £43,000 in revenues.
“It went viral and we were aware of the problem within an hour and a bit, but I just wanted to know the extent and cause of the problem,” explained Roger Grosvenor, a retail officer for the Co-op.
“Unfortunately the computers at our Ipswich headquarters didn’t want to play ball, so it took a day and a half to get us back on song. No-one’s in trouble – it was an honest mistake,” he added.
On the day of the discounts being inadvertently offered the Co-op saw sales at its East of England stores up 4 per cent compared with a typical day.
However, it isn’t clear whether that boost was due to news of the discounts spreading or because an increased number of local shoppers were looking to stock up on groceries for Christmas.
The 20 per cent off discounts were only offered on the Co-op’s cans, bottles and packets of food or drink and not on tobacco, fresh food or alcoholic drinks of any sort.
For shoppers in the Essex town of Clacton, the 20 per cent discount prices will be on offer as intended at their local Co-op store throughout the remaining days of December.
Speaking after finding his recent purchases discounted for no apparent reason, Noel Galer told BBC Essex: “The checkout assistant noticed my surprise and said they seemed to have a computer fault which was knocking 20 per cent off everything that was going through and they weren’t sure whether it was just their shop or not.
“It’s always been said that to err is human, but to really mess things up you need a computer and this is a perfect example.”