One of the UK’s few remaining small consumer co-operatives is to merge with Central England Co-operative after members voted in favour of the proposal.
The two organisations decided to join forces to “strengthen the local offering for Wooldale Co-operative customers and members and safeguard the society’s stores”.
Wooldale Co-operative Society was formed in 1886 by a handful of residents of Wooldale, a village in the Holme Valley in West Yorkshire, to cater for the needs of the local community. Today the society runs three convenience stores in Wooldale, New Mill and Thongsbridge, and owns land used as a set of allotments and the rental property above the New Mill store.
This is not the first merger the society has tried to complete. In 2006, talks were held with Shepley and Highburton Co-operatives, then in 2007, during a tough trading period, a merger was proposed with the United Co-operative society, which later that year merged with the Co-op Group. The motion to merge with Central England was passed by Wooldale members at Special Meetings held on Friday 12 and Friday 26 May.
Wooldale, which celebrated its 130th anniversary last year, employs 40 colleagues, all of whom will be transferred to Central England. The society’s 2,000 members will also be transferred.
“Central England is the society with the best geographical fit, coupled with excellent member, staff and community credentials and a strong trading position,” said Trevor Doherty, current chair of Wooldale.
“As a very small society we needed to work with another society who could make the investments we need year-on- year. Central England has the ability to invest in our stores, improve pay and conditions of our staff and bring additional benefits to our members and our community.”
Central England Co-operative has over 400 trading outlets across 16 counties, including six within 25 miles of Wooldale. The closest is in Shepley – 2.5 miles away.
Central England chief executive Martyn Cheatle is looking forward to working with the new stores. “We are delighted to be pairing up with Wooldale members and colleagues and will be quickly moving to improve working benefits as well as upgrading food stores for our members and customers,” he said.