John Lewis and Co-op set up community support plans

RetailRetailers John Lewis Partnership and Co-op are launching community schemes in an effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and provide much-needed support to vulnerable and elderly consumers.

John Lewis Partnership has set up a £1m Community Support Fund to be distributed by Waitrose shops to local communities, and a support fund to aid staff facing additional costs as a result of the crisis.

The partnership said help could include setting up additional local delivery services to support the self-isolating, the vulnerable, the elderly and their carers, or delivering boxes of staples to local care homes and community groups, and donating products to create care packages for customers to share with vulnerable neighbours.

Teams in each shop will work together with their communities to choose the best way to use the fund.

In addition, to assist staff who are working long hours to meet the needs of customers, the partnership said it would set up a support fund to aid colleagues who are facing additional costs as a result of the pandemic – such as childcare costs. Staff will also be offered free meals at work during the crisis.

Waitrose is working on a way to support its vulnerable customers who need food delivered to them via online shopping, while John Lewis is exploring ways to offer its services remotely to customers in their homes, such as online courses or expert advice from staff.

This could include nursery advice for expectant parents, wellbeing advice, craft and cookery classes, or one-to-one calls.

John Lewis Partnership chair Sharon White said: “At this time of national crisis, [we are] wholeheartedly committed to ensuring we support customers and in particular the elderly and most vulnerable. Our commitment to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities we operate in has always been at the heart of our business.”

Meanwhile, the Co-op has written to members of its loyalty scheme to say it is urgently investigating how it can help local communities.

CEO Steve Murrells said: “We are looking at how we can use everything we’ve got to help; from our 700 Member Pioneer colleagues, to our local community fund, to our partnership on mental wellbeing with MIND, SAMH and Inspire. We’re also working on a new online platform called ‘Co-operate’ which connects people to local support and information.

“I can’t think of a time when this kind of tool has been more needed and so we’re pulling out all the stops to build it faster and get it to more communities. Right now my teams are working out the best way for us to help, practically and financially, where we’re most needed. These are exceptional times but I promise that we’re here for you and we will work so hard to support each other through this and keep you updated.”

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