Although they may not realise it, incoming freshers will be presented with a very different Students’ Union building this year; the current Students’ Union shop will be replaced by a Co-op franchise store due to open in September.
Despite being affiliated with the Co-op, the store will operate as a franchise ran and managed by the Students’ Union, providing employment opportunities for students. The store will offer both Co-op-brand and branded groceries including fresh produce (and the highly-acclaimed Co-op meal deals), an extensive vegan and free-from selection, and Fairtrade products. Unlike the former Students’ Union shop, the Co-op franchise will also sell alcoholic beverages.
It is hoped that the store will also be able to tie in with current Student Perks promotions and offer students a 10% discount. Unlike the current trading hours, the Co-op franchise will remain open at weekends and could stay open until midnight.
The development of the franchise reflects the nation-wide demise of independent convenience retail stores; 2018 saw a net decline of 590 stores across the country due to increased competition from large chains.
Whilst being the Co-op’s first franchise store in the North East, this development follows a wave of Co-op franchise openings in Students’ Unions across the country, including Leeds in February and Kent in July.
Discussing the development, Graham Hattam, Newcastle University Students’ Union Director of Commercial, said: “This initiative supports our focus on providing healthy, affordable, fresh food and drink for students on campus, and complements our overarching objectives around enhancing the student experience. NUSU has been awarded ‘Students’ Union of the Year’ for the last two years consecutively, and a huge part of this success has been driven through delivering these types of initiatives which directly address the wants and needs of our students.”
Second year student Sophie Wilson shares his enthusiasm about the developing, saying: "The Co-op will not only provide us with affordable food at a convenient location, but will also allow students to help the community of Newcastle, with percentages of our shopping money going to help their local community fund project. It's a win win situation!"
Following from this development, the merchandise section of the former shop will move to become its own memorabilia store selling stationery, clothing and other Newcastle University-branded items.