The Co-operative Group Ltd. is a consumer cooperative that originated in the United Kingdom. This cooperative has a wide variety of operations and is considered the largest co-operative in the world, with about 5 million members.
The Co-operative was founded in 1863 and was originally named ‘North of England Co-operative Wholesale Industrial & Provident Society Ltd.’ This organization was created by 300 co-operatives based in Lancashire andYorkshire. In 1872, the organization’s name was changed to CWS, or Co-operative Wholesale Society. In the succeeding years, the number of smaller cooperatives that merged with it fuelled CWS’ growth. In 1967, the group created its own private brand, Co-op®. Among the smaller cooperatives that joined CWS was the Suburban Co-operative Society, which merged with the organization on 1984.
During the 1990s, CWS’ share of the market began to decrease significantly, causing the co-operative to sell a number of its facilities to buyer Andrew Regan in 1994. Eventually, the Co-operative was able to overcome the economic challenges that it had been encountering and went back on track with the business.
In 2007, the organizations began a series of talks with United Co-operative, the country’s second largest cooperative. By July of 2007, the merger between the two organizations was completed, and a new society was formed. In 2008, the group bought 10 convenience stores. In the same year, the group realised its purchase of 900 convenience stores and supermarkets worth £1.5 billion. This sale was successfully completed in March of 2009. Also in 2009, The Co-op had grown to include 23 independent and smaller consumer cooperatives. In the same year, the group also launched its largest television campaign in order to promote the organization, its products and its services.
Currently, The Co-op is engaged in several businesses, including travel, healthcare, legal services, online electrical and food. The food business is one of the group’s largest divisions. It currently has more than 2,900 stores, in different sizes, which are widely spread all over the country.
Because it is considered as the largest Co-operative in the country, The Co-op also participates in activities relating to co-operative movements. The Co-op is considered an important sponsor of newly formed co-operatives.
Headquarters: Manchester, NW England
Ownership Type: Consumer cooperative
Demography: In the food division, the group is patronized by retail product consumers and consumers who shop for quality.