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Stores merger puts an end to uncertainty
1:24pm Tuesday 15th October 2013 in News
A MERGER has finally been agreed that sees four small stores in Weardale joining Scotland's biggest independent co-operative society.
After months of talks and voting by members the stores, employing around 30 people, will become part of the giant Edinburgh-based Scotmid Co-operative Society, with a workforce of nearly 5,000.
The four stores - at Frosterley, Stanhope, Westgate and St John's Chapel - are part of a merger deal agreed by the Penrith Co-operative Society, in Cumbria, which amalgamated with the Stanhope and Weardale Co-operative Society in 2002.
But although the merger has been largely applauded by Scotmid and members of the Penrith society, fears are being voiced in Weardale that the move could eventually lead to job losses and even store closures.
Ivan Jones, who was a director of the Stanhope society until three years ago, said: "The trouble is we don't know what lies in store for us.
"My biggest fear and that of other co-op members in the dale is that the merger could lead to job losses and even store closures. We just don't know what may happen."
The same fears were voiced when Stanhope and Weardale Co-op joined forces with the Penrith society.
Some members wanted a merger with the much larger North-East Co-operative Society.
In a statement, Scotmid has promised there will be no threat to jobs at either Penrith, which operates six stores in Cumbria, or at Stanhope and Weardale within the next 12 months.
John Dalley, Scotmid's chief financial officer, said: "We are delighted the merger has gone ahead. It marks an important chapter in our 154-year history.
"Support from members of both societies has been tremendous."
Scotmid operates 350 retail and service outlets, including health and beauty shops, throughout Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England. Its current turnmover is £428million.
Penrith Co-op employs 179 staff in ten outlets in Cumbria and Weardale. Its latest turnover was £13m.
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