THE Co-op is said to be selling one of its busy Wigan supermarkets to a budget rival.
Fighting financial troubles, the retail giant is in the process of disposing of the former Standish Somerfield store in School Lane to German brand Aldi, say staff, who remain fearful for their jobs.
Speculation has been stoked by the company’s surprise decision to plough more than £250,000 into a full refurbishment at its other Standish store, the Late Shop in Pole Street, less than 100 yards away.
The smaller site, which also contains the village’s Post Office branch, reopened earlier this week complete with in-store bakery after being closed for a fortnight for the major overhaul to take place.
When approached by the Wigan Evening Post today, both grocery firms made no attempt to rubbish the rumours over the deal - or allay staff fears over any closure.
A spokesman for the Co op said that it was “unable to say anything” about any proposals for the School Lane store’s future.
And his opposite number at Aldi said: “Aldi have no comment to make to this at this time.”
The Co-op ended up with two stores in one village literally overlooking one another after its decision to buy the Somerfield (originally Gateway) company in 2009.
Meanwhile the recession is known to have been particularly kind to budget grocery retailers such as Aldi as shoppers flock to shop where they believe their retail pound will go further.
Interest in the retail future is fierce in Standish with another supermarket scheme on Preston Road - said to be Sainsbury’s but denied by them, plus a food store approval for the Chadwick’s butchers site. Lidl has also had a presence in the town for several years now.
Staff at the School Lane Co-op site - many who have long service going back to the Somerfield years - are angry about the lack of information coming from bosses about their future.
One said: “The Co-op talk about treating their staff differently from the others because of the history but at the end of the day they are just like the rest of them.
“We are being kept totally in the dark and we will only be told when it suits them. When it’s you job and your family’s future this just can’t be fair. I suppose the writing has been on the wall here for ages because the Co-op just won’t spend any money on it.
“We have had all this problem with the fridges because they are too old but they won’t replace them. They just keep having them repaired, despite the fact that they are always breaking down and our customers are always moaning when they find them closed off and nothing on the shelves.
“The roof sprung a leak in the corner in all the heavy rain last week and again, they bodge a repair rather than having it done properly.
“Then when you know that they have spent a quarter of a million pounds in one go on the other place, you know where they think their future is. There have been lots of rumours - the one about Aldi is the latest.”