An increase of over five per cent on the previous year, around 4,820 co-operatives generated £28.9bn of business in year end results issued between September 2008 and January 2009.
Profit before tax improved marginally at £539.8 million and the number of co-operative members surged by 4.5% to 11.3 million people. Co-operatives now sustain over 200,000 jobs.
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 and mutuals.
The full figures are set to presented at this weekend's Co-operative Congress in Windsor by Ben Reid, Chair of Co-operatives UK, during a keynote address to over 400 people from across the co-operative sector in the UK.
Mr Reid told the News: “Despite the economic recession, co-operative businesses have maintained their momentum of recent years and continue to grow and prosper.
“Perhaps it is because a large part of the Co-operative Movement’s economic strength lies in retailing that we are able to report ongoing growth in the co-operative economy and the last 12 months were certainly momentous for the consumer owned co-operative sector.
"The Co-operative Group’s acquisition of supermarket group Somerfield creates a powerful fifth player to challenge Britain’s big four and maintain co-operative food retailing’s position as the country’s biggest convenience food retailer. Many other consumer-owned co-operatives have also posted exceptional, if not record, performance in the past year.”
Consumer owned co-operative food retailers, including the Co-operative Group and a number of significant regionally based co-operative societies such as Midlands, East of England and The Midcounties, have performed particularly well, with net profit up by 7.2 per cent. At £506 million, this is the highest level of net profit recorded in recent years and equates to net profit as a percentage of sales of 4.1 per cent, also the best figure for some time. Like for like turnover grew by almost one per cent to £12.97 billion.
“Just as the acquisition of Somerfield was being put to bed, the merger of Co-operative Financial Services (CFS) with Britannia Building Society was announced,” added Mr Reid. “The merger, which was approved by Britannia’s members in May, will create a ‘super mutual’ capable of attracting customers who are disillusioned with the country’s banks by promising the fair treatment and ethical policies that CFS is already renowned for.
“However, the sector must not be complacent. There are many challenges ahead for all businesses, not just co-operatives, and maintaining our velocity will not be easy. I believe we are better placed than for many years to achieve this, but the road will not be smooth. We know that co-operatives offer a better way of doing business, so we must keep pushing to get our message across to more people.”
Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, added: “Behind every pound of turnover there lies a story of individuals working in a co-operative and collaborative way. Whether that is to provide affordable credit to members in a credit union or workers coming together to follow a common agenda of creating meaningful employment, co-operation is the business model of choice.
“Co-operatives are run by people, for people, and our renaissance demonstrates that, in the 21st Century, working together is as strong an economic and personal motivator as it has always been. Co-operation is not just an alternative way of doing business; it is a better way of doing business.
“In addition to financial performance, co-operatives are measured by a range of social and ethical objectives and increasing our turnover and profitability allows us to contribute more to the communities we serve.”
Congress is also set to unveil the top 100 co-operatives in the UK. The top 10 co-ops from the list are:
1. Co-operative Group
2. John Lewis Partnership
3. Midlands Co-op
4. Midcounties Co-op
5. First Milk
6. The National Merchant Buying Society
7. Milk Link
8. East of England Co-op
9. Scotmid Co-op
10. Openfield Group
• Full reports from Congress 2009 will be in the News, published July 7th.