Departing Central England Co-operative Martyn Cheatle reflects on his time in the role

Martyn Cheatle, departing Chief Executive of Central England Co-operative, has reflected on his nine years in the role, the future of retail and the co-operative movement.

During his time in charge of the UK’s largest independent retail society, the married father-of-one has helped transform it into a modern, forward thinking organisation with over 8,000 colleagues across 16 counties.

His achievements include supporting significant investment of over £300 million, which has seen food stores grow from 168 to 266 and funeral homes from 81 to 131, the launch of a ground-breaking food redistribution project, raising millions for corporate charities including Newlife and Dementia UK and ensuring that there are now food banks in over 90% of stores

He also oversaw the Society being the first UK retailer to gain all four Carbon Trust standards and saw it twice been named Leading Co-operative of the Year.

Martyn has also played an instrumental role in providing a strong voice for independent co-operative societies within the wider co-operative movement.

After leading the Society since 2010, he has now been succeeded by Debbie Robinson, who has joined from SPAR UK where she was UK Managing Director.

Martyn said: “Since taking on the role of Chief Executive I am pleased to have overseen significant investment and growth. We now operate across 16 counties, have merged with other co-ops and ensured we support people at the heart of local communities.

“Our strong financial performance has also enabled us to continue to put membership and community at the centre of everything we do and all of the decisions we make.

“It has also allowed us to go from just one new site opening a year to a significant new store opening programme, with growth like this just becoming business as usual.”

Martyn took on the role of Chief Executive of the then Midlands Co-op in 2010 following the retirement of John Fitzgerald.

He had joined the Society in 2001 as Head of Finance before being appointed Deputy Chief Executive in 2005.

Prior to joining he held a series of positions at the Bass Group and Gala Leisure.

Speaking about the future of retail co-operatives, Martyn said ‘point of difference’ is vital to continued success.

He added: “The key thing is going to be continuing to showcase our point of difference. This means retailing in convenient locations, being community based and offering fantastic customer service. All three things we do very well.

“In terms of the future of co-operatives, we all need to continue what we are doing and doing it well. That means building on our point of difference whether it be product quality or sticking to the co-operative values and principles.

“We must also ensure that high levels of co-operation among other co-ops continues and goes from strength to strength.”

Asked what he would miss the most, Martyn quickly answered with two important words – ‘our colleagues’.

He said: “I’m going to miss the people. Our colleagues are fantastic and so passionate about what we do. I know that our success is down to our colleagues, not me, that’s why I’ve always been focused on making Central England Co-op a great place to work and supporting colleagues – through investing in colleague development, fair reward, listening sessions, recognition such as our leading brilliance awards, long service celebrations, and raising awareness of mental health.”

When he leaves after 18 years with the Society Martyn plans to travel with his wife Alison alongside continuing to work with people by volunteering.


Notes to editors


About Central England Co-operative


Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK. 


It is a modern, forward-looking organisation employing over 8,000 staff, with the Society’s principal areas of activity being food, funeral services, travel shops, and property investment.


Central England Co-operative has over 400 trading outlets across 16 counties including; West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.  The Society has an ambitious food store development programme for 2019.


Central England Co-operative is proud of its reputation for ethical business practices and corporate responsibility.  It is a member of Business in the Community, the membership organisation that stands for responsible business, and has also won many business awards for excellence.  The Society supports a number of charities including Dementia UK and invests a percentage of its trading profit into local communities.


Becoming a member of Central England Co-operative offers a whole host of benefits ranging from collecting points every time you spend in store to earn a share of the profits, access to member activities and community initiatives including the Community Dividend Fund, which hands out grants of up to £5,000 to charities and good causes across the Society’s trading estate.

Find out how to become a Central England Co-operative member by calling 0800 0501 601, emailing or visiting


For more information visit, follow Central England Co-operative on Twitter: @mycoopfood, and on Facebook:


Rob Smyth and James Brindle at Central England Co-operative on 01543 421390


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