Our origins

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We are part of The Midcounties Co-operative, which is the largest independent co-operative in the UK. In 2013/2014 The Midcounties Co-operative achieved sales of £1.1 billion and £30 million profit, across their Groups; Food, Energy, Travel, Pharmacy, Flexible Benefits, Funeral, Childcare and Post Offices. Midcounties set up Co-operative Energy in 2010 and we have achieved sales of £159 million with over 200,000 members in just 4 years. Although we were founded by a regional Co-operative, we are very much a national business, covering the whole of England, Wales and Scotland.

Our unique approach

Our unique approach to business is the product of over 165 years of treating customers, members and suppliers fairly. Our ethos means our members have a say in every decision we make, which sets us apart from other businesses.

The story of The Co-operative

The Co-operative Movement began in the early part of the nineteenth century. Although the industrial revolution reshaped society it created many problems and challenges, one of which was the difficulty that many families faced trying to obtain everyday items for a fair price. The development of shops couldn’t keep up with the pace of new industrial communities; meaning shopkeepers maintained a monopoly in their localities. The self-help values of the Victorian age, coupled with the increasingly popular ideas of social reformers, such as Robert Owen, meant that people realised they could achieve more as a collective than they ever would alone.

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The Rochdale Pioneers founded the first successful retail co-operative society in 1844. They opened a shop on Toad Lane in Rochdale selling goods at reasonable prices to raise funds for their own Co-operative community. The Pioneers also introduced a dividend, meaning every customer could become members of the society and receive a share of the profits depending on how much they spent. The ideas behind their work have become known as The Rochdale Principles, the values by which they would trade.

These values are still used today:

Voluntary and open membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to everyone without discrimination. They offer services to all of their members providing they are willing to accept the responsibilities of their membership.

Democratic member control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations that are controlled by their members. They actively participate in selling policies and making decisions, and are represented by elected members. All members have equal voting rights, one vote per member regardless of how much they trade with The Co-operative.

Member economic participation

Members contribute equally to the capital of their Co-operative and allocate profits for a number of reasons. These include developing their Co-operative, building up reserves, rewarding members in proportion to their trade with the Co-operative and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

Autonomy and independence

Co-operatives are independent organisations controlled by their members, they are not controlled by investors and shareholders in proportion to capital.

Education, training and information 

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees, so they can contribute effectively to their development. They also inform the public (specifically young people and opinion leaders) about the nature and benefits of being part of a co-operative.

Co-operation among co-operatives

The most effective Co-operatives work together at every level, from local and regional to national and international levels.

Concern for community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

Today there are over 6000 co-operative societies in the UK. These range in size, from small one-shop societies to giants that have annual sales of £12 billion.The largest Co-operative in the UK is The Co-operative Group The consumer Co-operative movement is only a small part of an international co-operative movement – which has over 3 billion members in more than 100 countries. In fact 1 in 3 of the population are members of a Co-operative.

The Midcounties Co-operative

Following their success in 1844, many of the Rochdale Pioneers decided to set up their own local Co-op stores in towns and villages across the UK. By the end of the nineteenth century there were over 2000 Co-operative societies across the country – including Oxford, Cinderford and Chipping Norton. The mergers led to two big societies in the Midcounties region by the end of the twentieth century: Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op, and West Midlands Co-op. In 2005, the members of the two Co-operatives decided to merge, becoming The Midcounties Co-operative.

You can find out more on the main Midcounties website.