Somerfield to hold charity poll

Helen Barrett

Supermarket chain Somerfield is to ask its 10 million customers to help choose one of two leading cancer charities to be its 2007 charity of the year in a vote in its stores and online.

From this week, the UK's fifth-largest food retailer will invite shoppers in its 1,100 stores to choose between Marie Curie Cancer Care and Macmillan Cancer Support. Each charity has been given 100 words to pitch its case to shoppers. These will be displayed on ballot leaflets and posters in stores and on the supermarket's website.

The decision will be based equally on the results of the customer and staff votes. The winning charity will be announced on 20 October and will benefit from an estimated £2m to be raised by staff fundraising events and collections in the stores throughout the year.

"Simply by chance, two cancer charities gave fantastically strong and exciting presentations to us during the short-listing process," said Pete Williams, head of press and PR at Somerfield. "It is awkward - and we did have reservations - but in the end it just felt right to go on the strength of pitch."

Chris Dainty, a spokesman for Marie Curie Cancer Care, said: "Whichever charity wins, cancer patients will benefit. Equally, the campaign will give us the chance to increase public knowledge about our services."

Jason Suckley, head of corporate partnerships at Macmillan, said: "We see the vote as an opportunity to raise awareness of our services. We are enlisting the help of supporters, fundraisers and volunteers to win - but the real winners will in the end be those affected by cancer."

Somerfield's incumbent charity of the year, the Association of Children's Hospices, has so far received almost £2.5m through the partnership. In June, the supermarket collected more than 250,000 signatures on a petition to the Government to increase funding for children's hospices.

THE BIG FOUR

- Tesco Whizz-Kidz will hand over to the British Red Cross in January after a staff vote

- Asda stores each select local charities to support, and the company holds national events for Tickled Pink, Everyman, Brake and BBC Children In Need

- Morrisons staff voted for Breast Cancer Campaign to be its charity of the year

- Sainsbury's partnership with Comic Relief lasts until 2011.

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