A CHRISTMAS savings scheme has been improved by the Co-operative Group, with approval of victims of the Farepak collapse.

The company, which has a store in Old Town, says it has become the first retailer to protect customers putting money away for the festive period.

The trust has been created to provide additional security to thousands of Co-operative food customers using the scheme, many of whom buy stamps at the checkout to help spread the cost.

Customers’ money will be transferred into a trust account managed by an independent trustee, which will provide protection for their funds.

There is heightened interest in such schemes after the collapse of a number of high-street names left customers out of pocket.

The Co-operative has been working on the scheme with the Farepak Victims’ Committee, set up after the Swindon-based Christmas club collapsed in 2006, leading to nearly 120,000 people losing on average of £400 each.

Co-operative customers can buy £1 stamps throughout the year, putting a little away each month. Martyn Wates, the deputy chief executive of the Co-operative Group, said: “As the UK’s biggest consumer-owned business, and a trusted and responsible retailer, I’m pleased that we have been able to respond to the Farepak Victims Committee’s request for a trust fund “I believe this initiative will give our customers extra peace of mind, setting a new standard for other businesses to follow.”

Deborah Harvey and Louise McDaid secretary and chairman of the Farepak Victims’ Committee said: “We are over the moon that this scheme is now ready for launch.

“With the recent collapse of a number of firms and the scandal of the vouchers not being honoured, we feel this launch proves that The Co-operative really have their customers at the very top of their priorities.

“This scheme will protect the consumer and importantly protect the Christmas savings of thousands of hard pressed families.”