An anonymous letterwriter contacted Comment following the lead article in February’s edition about the Dunkeld Co-op selling lottery tickets and newspapers. Concern was forcefully expressed in it that the issues raised vexed only a small minority and did not represent the opinion of 'the vast majority of the Dunked & Birnam public'.
CoopWebsmallThe letter attributed the article to Comment having been ringfenced by a tiny ‘sour grapes’ group. It urged that group to consider the retailing competence and customer management capability of those raising the direct complaints against the Co-op.
Regarding the local retail provision, the letter emphasised that ‘the Co-op is certainly not the only food shop in the area’. It held that the town has a long established ‘main street grocer’s business in Menzies; a good butchery business in Scougalls; a Spar Grocery in Birnam which sells fresh fruit and veg as well as newspapers and both Asda and Tesco are only a 15 minute drive away’.
According to the letterwriter, the local Co-operative ‘has lots of competition and is, quite rightly, improving its services to the public and has been selling sandwiches for years’.

Publicly Addressed
These and other related matters were addressed at the Dunkeld & Birnam Community Council meeting on 11 March attended by 10 members of the public. Ivor Patterson (IP), the Area Manager of the Co-operative also attended the meeting and was accompanied by an advisor, Ewan Chisholm.
Nan Johnston is the proprietor of Dunkeld News and the chair of the CC. As an interested party she surrendered the chair for this item on the agenda to Vice Chair Janet Blakeley.
The following is an extract from the minutes of the meeting which was also attended by Paul Kettles of P&K Council:
Messrs Patterson and Chisholm stressed that they had attended the meeting in order to address concerns and to take the opportunity ‘to get things right’. Several issues were raised in discussion, both by community councillors and members of the public present:
•  Rubbish on the pavement - Other shop owners and members of the community had expressed concerns over a long period about the amount of cages, some containing rubbish, on the pavement, creating an obstacle as well as an eyesore. Paul Kettles had met with the Co-op a year ago but didn’t feel enough improvement had been made.
IP gave an assurance that in future the only item on the pavement would be flowers, at times. P&K Cll’r Barbara Vaughan voiced her disappointment that it had taken the Co-op so long to address this issue.
•  Selling items which other shops sell, specifically newspapers and lottery tickets - Concerns were expressed about the ‘health of the High Street’ due to the Co-op recently beginning to stock newspapers and Lottery tickets, thus threatening the viability of the local newsagent.
IP explained that a decision had been taken by the Co-op that all its stores would stock newspapers. Several people made the point that they expected the Co-op to be more sensitive to the impact of their operations on the welfare of communities where they trade.
IP agreed to ‘have a conversation with’ the Co-op’s executive and will come back with their reply.
•  Limited range of groceries - Many people have been complaining that a lot of basic groceries are now unavailable in this Co-op, making it difficult for them to shop locally. Space for these items is now more limited because of eg newspapers and takeaways for tourists. 
IP responded that some basics have recently been restored to the shelves and the plan now is for local managers to be able to jiggle a bit of the generalised, centrally operated stock. He said he is considering introducing a suggestion box for customers.  A new manager took up post in Dunkeld 24 March.
•  Lack of space, particularly at the till - The lottery machine at the till area has made it very difficult for customers to present their baskets and load their shopping. IP stated that he will order new, smaller baskets and look at ‘counter convenience’.
•  Higher prices -  IP explained that the Dunkeld Co-op is designated a ‘convenience store’ which means that prices are higher than in stores designated as ‘supermarkets’. It was pointed out that local people want a local grocers shop rather than a ‘convenience store’. IP agreed to go away and look into it. P&K Cll’r Barbara Vaughan agreed to investigate if there are rating differences between convenience stores and supermarkets.
•  Cleanliness - IP stated that a new cleaning contract is in hand and the poor flooring will be addressed. Concerns about staff smoking outside the front of the store will be seen to. The point was made that people were not complaining about the quality of service offered by staff, which was seen as good.
The Co-op represenatives are also to attend the next meeting of Dunkeld & Birnam CC.


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