The Rochdale Pioneers are credited with starting the first successful retail co-operative society in 1844, although there had been earlier attempts. The Pioneers opened a shop in Toad Lane, Rochdale selling unadulterated goods at reasonable prices to raise funds to create their own co-operative community. They also introduced a dividend that meant that all of its customers could become members of the Society and received a return in accordance with their expenditure.
By 1890, the efforts of ordinary men and women had forged a Movement of some 1,400 societies right across the century, with even more in Europe and elsewhere throughout the world. However, during the last century, the Co-operative Movement has undergone many changes in order to meet the challenge posed by multiple retailers, including combining to create larger and more efficient organisations.
Today, there are around 39 retail co-operative societies in the UK ranging in size from small 'one shop' societies to giants with sales of over £5 billion.
History of the Midcounties Co-operative
Swindon’s society was formed in 1853, Gloucester in 1860, Walsall in 1866, Chipping Norton in 1866, Oxford in 1872 and Cinderford in 1874. Locally there were dozens of co-op societies by the end of the nineteenth century. Slowly these societies began to merge together. Locally there were two by the end of the twentieth century, Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op and West Midlands Co-op. In 2005 the members of these two co-operatives agreed to merge to create The Midcounties Co-operative.