Irma bites the dust in Coop reshuffle

Kvickly and SuperBrugsen also on the way out, but outlets should continue following a rebranding

The term ‘annus horribilis’ was first made popular by Queen Elizabeth II to refer to a year in which three of her four children confirmed divorces/separations.

Certainly, 2016 was one for the celebrities: it started with David Bowie, and then Prince, Muhammad Ali, George Michael and Carrie Fisher followed – to name just a few. And how about 2020, and then 2021, for our general well-being – thanks for nothing, pandemic.

Well, this year is quickly turning into an ‘annus horribilis’ for supermarkets. It started with the realisation we’ll never get to stand on Fakta’s hallowed ground again, swiftly followed by Aldi’s announcement that it is making a getaway across the border.

And now this: Kvickly, SuperBrugsen and Irma will all soon cease to be! Shortly after the summer break, they are merging to become just one chain: Coop.

From eight chains to three
Of course, Coop is the name of its owner, so it’s not that far off the demasking of a superhero – after all, a clue was provided last year when most of the Faktas were taken over by Coop 365discount, leaving one to ponder: where’s regular Coop then?

So now, we’ll get to see what Coop without the ‘365discount’ is like. Given that the merger is part of a new strategy “to provide Danes with better and cheaper groceries” – not that different!

While SuperBrugsen is biting the dust, Brugsen will fight to see another day. The overall upshot is that Coop will only operate three chains once the year is out. At the end of 2021, it had eight.

Plenty of job losses
The biggest victim of the merger will be Irma – a chain increasingly struggling as shoppers seek discounted goods, according to Coop.

While the iconic Irma lady will live on as a brand on some of its high-end produce, 17 of its 65 stores will close altogether, starting from April 1. Nine will become Coop stores, 28 will continue as Coop 365discounts, and 11 small ones will survive as Brugsen outlets.

Irma has around 2,000 employees, and many will be offered jobs by Coop, but not all of them.

“It is a decision that pains us deeply,” noted Coop managing director Kræn Østergård Nielsen. “Because we have enormous respect for the strong culture in Irma, the exceptional employee effort and the many customers’ loyalty and warm feelings for the chain.”

Just shy of 140 years
Irma has a proud history. Founded in 1886, it began life as an egg shop located at Ravnsborggade 13 in Nørrebro under the name Mælkeforsyningen Ravnsborg.

In the early 20th century, Carl Schepler, the son of the founder, oversaw Irma’s production of its own goods, and it never looked back. The famous Irma girl came into being in 1907 – a design by architect Sophus Greiffenberg, who used his daughter Else as a model, although it was later redrawn as a woman. 

Greiffenberg was responsible for the name too. Based on the shortening of the chain’s margarine producer, Johannes Rasmussen, it was made pre-World War II, and by the time of Schepler’s death in 1942, there were 110 Irma outlets.

Coop then took over the chain in 1982 and after record years in 2020 and 2021, its future looked assured. But terrible losses last year sealed its fate.