A BARNTON shopkeeper has hit out after customers leaving his store were approached by a marketing agency and offered a £50 incentive to shop in the near-by Co-Op.

Customers of Nisa Local, on Runcorn Road, were approached by representatives and offered money to complete a survey at the Co-Op, on Lydyett Lane, about why they shopped with their rivals.

Owner Carl Ball said he understands the need to carry out market research, but that the Co-Op’s tactics were ‘intrusive’ and ‘aggressive’.

“It’s a small village and everyone understands that each shop has its place,” he said. “What they don’t seem to grasp is doing it on other people’s doorsteps can come across as aggressive.

“I felt this was a bit intrusive. It seems pretty unethical for a company which supposedly prides itself on ethics and community.

“I’m not going to stand outside their shop and do the same, but I think people should be aware, they shouldn’t really be doing that – it’s an unwritten rule.

“They said it was standard research. Is it standard to wait outside someone else’s shop?”

Mr Ball said the family-run business had not suffered a financial hit and that he did not blame local Co-Op staff for the marketing agency’s approach.

“We’ve got busier recently, so maybe we’ve taken some of their business,” he added “It’s up to people to choose really. It’s not illegal, but a bit aggressive.

“I’ve spoken to a member of staff who uses our shop, we’re a family-run business but their employees don’t have a vested interest in their business, so it’s not their fault.

“One lady showed me the letter and said she felt really bad, I said if they were giving me £50 then I would go and spend it.”

A spokesperson for The Co-operative Group said: “We are currently carrying out market research in Barnton, Cheshire, to understand what residents think about our recently refurbished food store.

“We have spoken to the agency about the concerns raised and are satisfied their researchers have acted appropriately and in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct.”

The market researchers invited local residents to discuss their shopping habits, and to carry out a sample shop in store. They were rewarded with £50 in cash as a thank you for their time and for taking part.