Heart of England Co-operative has returned to its Coventry roots after almost 90 years.
The society’s head office, which houses its management, admin, pensions, IT and personnel offices, relocated from its former home in Abbey Street, Nuneaton, where it had been based since 1929, to Whittle House, in Courtaulds Way, Foleshill. This is just a stone’s throw from Lockhurst Lane, where the Lockhurst Lane Industrial Co-operative Society was established by nine ribbon weavers more than 185 years ago.
These weavers joined together in a stand against greedy manufacturers charging inflated prices for shoddy products, including flour bulked up with chalk, tea bulked up with iron filings and sugar bulked up with sand.
Their aim was to provide honest, hard-working Coventry families with decent food, clothes and other goods at affordable prices – and being founded in 1832 (12 years before the Rochdale Pioneers set up their shop on Toad Lane), was one of the very first co-operative societies in the UK.
Lockhurst Lane Society merged with the Coventry Society in 1968, and later became part of the Coventry and East Mercia Co-operative Society – which changed its name to the Heart of England Co-operative Society on 1 January 2000.
Heart of England, which recently reported a 7.2% increase in like-for-like food sales, says the move marks the opening of a new chapter. It has recruited 24 new members of staff, including senior management, who each received extensive training before starting their employment.
Chief executive Ali Kurji said: “We were sad to leave a site that was our home for almost a century, but after an extensive search over many months we found Whittle House met our administrative and operational needs.
“Not only is this a new location, but it marks the start of an exciting new chapter for our society. Despite an increasingly tough market with unprecedented competition, our food and funeral businesses are both achieving strong sales and our society remains in a very good financial position.”
He added: “It is the vision and the ethos of our founders which not only helped lay the foundations of our society as we know it today, but which have also helped the business to enjoy continued growth ever since – from one shop in Coventry in 1832, to 32 food stores and 13 funeral homes across Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire in 2019.”
A group of nine ribbon weavers form the Lockhurst Lane Co-operative Society in Foleshill, Coventry – the first in what went on to become a massive national network of co-operative societies, to provide working families with honest decent food, clothes and other goods at affordable prices
The society branches out into Leicestershire when it opens a new store in Hinckley
Further expansion in Warwickshire, with a new branch in Rugby
The society moves into Harbury, south Warwickshire
Extension of south Warwickshire presence with a new store in Southam
The society expands its network in Leicestershire with a new store in Barwell
Another store opens in Leicestershire, in Earl Shilton
New store in Long Itchington
Further expansion in Leicestershire with the opening of Stoney Stanton
New branch in Nuneaton
New store in Sapcote
New store in Warwick
The society’s first move into Fenny Compton
The Co-operative in Meriden, near Coventry
Lockhurst Lane Industrial Co-operative Society merges with the Coventry Society
The local stores in Coventry, Warwickshire and south Leicestershire are united under the banner of the Coventry and East Mercia Co-operative Society
Coventry and East Mercia Co-op is renamed the Heart of England Co-operative Society. The society launches the Helping Hearts Awards Scheme to provide financial support to local charities and community organisations
The society wins a major accolade in recognition of its pioneering work to promote Fairtrade
The society becomes the first retailer in the UK to withdraw knives from its shelves in response to the alarming growth of young knife crime across the UK. It also extends its proof of identity scheme to include under-25s attempting to buy cigarettes or alcohol from its stores
The society opens its first dedicated Asian funeral home on the site of its former Lateshop food store in Foleshill Road, Coventry, in a £1.3m investment.
The society announces plans to re-brand all of its food stores, in line with the new Co-operative branding
The society unveils a new, £816,000, purpose-built food store in Ryton-on-Dunsmore.
It names the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance as its first ever nominated charity
The food division further expands its network of stores, with a development on the site of the Grange, a former pub which had served the Wyken community of Coventry for some 80 years.
The funeral division relocates its Nuneaton funeral home from Central Avenue, Nuneaton, to the historic Park House building
Guests join the funeral division in marking the opening of a new flagship, £1.5m facility on the Parade, in the heart of Royal Leamington Spa
The society marks the start of an exciting new chapter in the Long Lawford area near Rugby as it unveils a new £1.3m store on the site of its former facility which had stood in the village for several decades
Eighteen years after its launch, the amount of money raised by the Helping Hearts Awards Scheme for charities and worthy causes within the society’s trading area tops £1m