New names for merged co-ops

The co-operative retail sector is set to feature two new society names following one completed merger, with another due to be finalised soon. The Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester...

The co-operative retail sector is set to feature two new society names following one completed merger, with another due to be finalised soon.
The Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester Co-op and West Midlands Society titles will disappear on September 24th, when that merger becomes effictive, while the names Ipswich & Norwich and Colchester & East Essex will join them in the history books, provided members of both societies approve the change to East of England Co-operative next month.
OSG and West Midlands will now be known as Midcounties Co-operative. The new society is the fourth largest retail society in the UK. It will have a combined turnover of at least &#163 500 million; a membership of 180,000; 7,000 employees and will run 350 outlets.
As well as retail stores, Midcounties will run a range of other businesses including pharmacies, motor sales, childcare nurseries, care homes, funeral homes and more.
Bob Burlton, current Chief Executive of OSG, will head the new combined society, while former West Midlands Chief Ben Reid will be acting Chief Executive Designate until he replaces Mr Burlton when he steps down next year.
Mr Burlton said: "The creation of this new UK society is excellent news for the Movement as it will enable us to further both our aims of running a successful, values driven business that also promotes co-operation and benefits local communities."
Before the merger is completed, a spokesman for West Midlands Society told the News that for the year ending 24th September it is expected to post an increase in sales of 19 per cent on last year to &#163 210 million.
The projected profit for the final year the society is trading under West Midlands is set to be &#163 6.05m.
The fifth biggest society behind Midcounties will be the East of England Society, if approved at meetings over the next few weeks.
The society would have 200 trading outlets and annual sales of more than &#163 400 million.
Colchester&#039s Chief Executive Chris Blanchett will initially head the merged society until he retires in October 2006. He will then hand over the top job to Ipswich&#039s Chief Officer Richard Samson. Mr Samson will take the role of Chief Executive Designate during the first year.
A joint statement from the societies said: "A successful merger would ultimately give added convenience to members of both societies, who would be able to receive dividend on their purchases whether they were shopping in Norwich, Ipswich or Colchester, or indeed in any of the other 65 towns and villages in the region where the societies trade."
Mr Blanchett said: "We are confident that the arrangements being put in place will create a strong and successful co-operative business, which will provide a diverse range of services for its members in the region for many years to come."
Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, commented: "We very much welcome these mergers. They bring together dynamic and successful co-operative businesses from a position of strength. By joining together the two new merged societies will be stronger, which can only be of benefit to their members, customers, employees and the local communities.
"These are the latest in a series of mergers from strength which shows that the Co-operative Movement is able to galvanise its resources to create the enterprising co-operative businesses the UK needs."

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