There seems to be an ongoing proliferation of e-commerce sites offering bulk-purchasing services (and savings) to small businesses and individuals (groupon, anyone?) – made possible thanks to the blessing that is the internet and social media (I thought I’d try one out – co-deal).
But do we really need so many? There are various trade bodies that already exist that have negotiated discounts on core services for their members (the Institute of Consulting can get you cheaper professional indemnity insurance, Co-operativesUK can get you free banking, and so so) – a model which is largely based on the old Medieval Guilds (an early co-op model).
And in the 1970s there was a surge of interest in people forming food buying groups, from which many worker co-ops were ‘birthed’ – a trend that’s captured peoples’ imagination again today.
Ultimately, all these bulk purchasing schemes (whether they be for small businesses like me, or householders – also like me!) are based on a co-op model and exhibit co-op values – empowering individuals to achieve together what they could not alone.
But the co-op model fell out of fashion during the 1970s and 1980s and is only really just starting to come back into mainstream society’s consciousness – so I hope that all these new and emerging group buying schemes recognise that they’re using a co-op model and look to this proud and historical movement for guidance in building new sustainable businesses that offer economic benefit to their members and users.