First stop…the Co-op

28 Oct

Your intrepid blogger (in the raincoat, of course) visits The Co-op

It’s a typical rainy Sunday  in Manchester, but that didn’t deter me from doing a little exploring before all the action begins later in the week. Armed with a map, I headed toward the main shopping area in the city’s downtown; I had walked for about 10 minutes when I suddenly noticed a familiar sign: The Co-operative. My heart skipped a beat as I found myself face to face with a UK  institution that I had written about on numerous occasions, but had never seen in person.

The Co-operative Group – or just “the Co-op” as people call it in the UK — is a remarkable organization with a fascinating history. It’s story goes all the way back to 1863, when the North of England Co-operative Society was launched by some 300 co-ops in Yorkshire and Lancashire. By 1872, it had become known as the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and in subsequent years, a wide range of other co-op organizations merged with it to create The Co-operative Group we know today.

By the 1990s, the Co-operative Group was facing hard times; it had lost much of its market share  and consumer perception was that it was dowdy and old-fashioned. In 2006, it embarked on a rebranding campaign that created a modern and unified brand image for all parts of the Co-operative Group, including food stores, travel services, pharmacies, funeral services and the Co-operative Bank.  The rebranding campaign – and a series of mergers with other UK co-operative organizations — turned The Co-operative around.  Today it has over six million members, more than120,000 employees and is the UK’s fifth largest food retailer.

I was greeted at the Co-op by a lovely woman  who was very friendly, and even friendlier when I told her who I was and what I was doing in Manchester. In fact, she is one of the legion of co-op volunteers who is helping with the set-up for Co-operatives United, and brochures for Co-operatives United were prominently displayed in the store. “Do you have one of these?” she said, holding up a brochure.

The store itself was very attractive, with a wide variety of products and eye-catching displays. A prominent sign at the cash said “You can now find one of our stores in every UK postal area,” and bore the tagline “good with food”.   It was a wonderful start to a great day in Manchester.

— Donna Balkan

3 Responses to “First stop…the Co-op”

  1. TC October 28, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    Great to meet you on the CCA Blog Donna.


  2. Tanya Gracie October 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    Just to add to Donna’s post and to provide a bit more context, myself and CCA’s Executive Director, Denyse Guy, arrived in Manchester this afternoon. After settling into our accommodations we went to purchase some food for breakfasts over the coming days and also saw The Co-operative. We went in and made our purchases and when we got to the cash, the woman at the check out asked why we were in Manchester. We said for the Co-operatives United event to which she responded that there had been another Canadian woman who had been in earlier in the afternoon, was very excited, and had taken lots of photos. We said “was her name Donna?”, and yes sure enough it was. So small world…

    -Tanya Gracie

    • dbalkan2011 October 29, 2012 at 12:51 am #

      Welcome Tanya (and Denyse), Great to hear you got here safe & sound and also stopped by the Co-op! See you soon.

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