UK Co-operatives nudge £34bn

Latest figures from Co-operatives UK reveal that co-operative businesses in the UK have pushed up their combined turnover by some 15.8% to almost £34 billion – during the same period UK GDP decreased by 4.9%.

 As the UK coalition government debates the provision of public services via a co-operative model, and trust in PLCs and other models of business continues to decline, Ed Mayo, Secretary General of the trade body for co-operatives, Co-operatives UK, says the co‑operative sector is well placed to step up to the challenge.

 The figures – released during the first ever Co-operatives Fortnight – show that the UK has some 4,992 jointly owned, democratically controlled co‑operative businesses, which together reported a combined performance of £33.5 billion and the number of co-operative members (ie owners) surged by 14% to 12.9 million people (over one in five of the population). Co-operatives now sustain over 237,000 jobs in the UK.

 These numbers include not only the consumer owned high street “Co-operative” shops but also employee owned co-operatives, co-operative consortia, agricultural co-operatives, housing co-operatives, fishing co-operatives, credit unions and community owned co‑operatives.

 Ed Mayo said: “Despite the ongoing difficulties in many sectors of the economy, co-operative businesses have maintained their momentum of recent years and continue to grow and prosper.

 “Co-operatives work across the economy, from football to farming, finance to funeral care. They address some of the biggest challenges – from inequality and climate change to the changing nature of business and the economy. Co-operatives are not immune to the woes of the economy, but these results show that the co-operative economy is in good shape.”

 Consumer owned co-operative food retailers, including the Co-operative Group and a number of regionally based co‑operative societies such as Southern Co-operatives and Chelmsford Star have seen significant sales increases compared to last year. Trading profit before depreciation for all consumer co-operatives is slightly down on the year, although the last five years have seen significant improvements in the profitability of the consumer societies.

 The Co-operative UK 100 – the annual ranking of the UK’s biggest co-operative businesses – was also unveiled. The top ten co-operative businesses in the UK are the Co-operative Group, John Lewis Partnership, Midlands Co-operative Society, The Midcounties Co‑operative Society, First Milk, Milk Link, National Merchant Buying Society, Openfield Group, East of England Co-operative Society, Scottish Midland Co-operative Society.

 Said Ed Mayo: “Co-operatives enable customers, employees and communities to work together, allowing them to control the business and share the profits: co-operatives are a powerful alternative.”

 The Co-operative Economy can be downloaded at

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Alex Bird is an experienced co-operative searcher and activist. Follow him @coopalex3
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