Consumers' cooperative

A consumers' cooperative is a business owned by its customers. Employees can also generally become members. Members vote on major decisions and elect the board of directors from amongst their own number. The first of these was set up in 1844 in the North-West of England by 28 weavers who wanted to sell food at a lower price than the local shops. A well-known example in the United States is the REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) co-op, and in Canada: Mountain Equipment Co-op.[citation needed] With its 414,383 employees, 7,736,210 members and a turnover of 50Bn per year growing at a steady rate of 4.41%,[25] Legacoop[26] of Italy is arguably the world's biggest federation of cooperatives.[citation needed] The world's largest consumers' cooperative is the Co-operative Group in the United Kingdom, which offers a variety of retail and financial services. The UK also has a number of autonomous consumers' cooperative societies, such as the East of England Co-operative Society and Midcounties Co-operative. In fact, the Co-operative Group is something of a hybrid, having both corporate members (mostly other consumers' cooperatives, as a result of its origins as a wholesale society), and individual retail consumer members.[citation needed] Japan has a very large and well-developed consumer cooperative movement with over 14 million members; retail co-ops alone had a combined turnover of 2.519 trillion Yen (21.184 billion US dollars [market exchange rates as of 15 November 2005]) in 2003/4.[27] Migros is the largest supermarket chain in Switzerland and has around 2 million of the country's 7.2 million population as member .[citation needed] Switzerland's second-biggest supermarket chain, Coop is also a cooperative. In 2001, it merged with 11 cooperative federations which had been its main suppliers for over 100 years.[citation needed] As of 2005, Coop operates 1,437 shops and employs almost 45,000 people. According to Bio Suisse, the Swiss organic producers' association, Coop accounts for half of all the organic food sold in Switzerland.Consumer cooperatives are enterprises owned by consumers and managed democratically which aim at fulfilling the needs and aspirations of their members.[1] They operate within the market system, independently of the state, as a form of mutual aid, oriented toward service rather than pecuniary profit.[2] Consumers' cooperatives often take the form of retail outlets owned and operated by their consumers, such as food co-ops.[3] However, there are many types of consumers' cooperatives, operating in areas such as health care, insurance, housing, utilities and personal finance (including credit unions). In some countries, consumers' cooperatives are known as cooperative retail societies or retail co-ops, though they should not be confused with retailers' cooperatives, whose members are retailers rather than consumers. Consumers' cooperatives may, in turn, form cooperative federations. These may come in the form of cooperative wholesale societies, through which consumers' cooperatives collectively purchase goods at wholesale prices and, in some cases, own factories. Alternatively, they may be members of cooperative unions.[4] Consumer cooperation has been a focus of study in the field of cooperative economics.

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