MIDLANDS Co-op – Britain's second biggest independent society – is in talks with nearby Desborough Co-op concerning a possible merger, which could be completed by early June.
Desborough's retailing operation comprises three food stores, two non-food stores and a farm.
Midlands Society Chief Executive John Fitzgerald commented: "We are delighted to have entered into talks that could lead to Desborough Society joining the Midlands Co-op family of businesses.
Together we will strengthen our retailing position in Northamptonshire and secure a continuing co-operative presence in the area."
Desborough Co-op's Managing Secretary Michael Major said: "The proposal to join forces with Midlands Co-op makes strategic sense in the current economic and legislative climate, although understandably there is a sense that we have reached the end of an era.
"Midlands Co-op is a very large, financially sound neighbouring co-op whose plans and aspirations meet with the long-term interests of Desborough Society."
The pending merger will need the support of Desborough members and meetings are being arranged for May. If approved, the merger will take effect from the beginning of June 2006.
Should the merger decision be approved, it will be the fourth Co-op merger in 18 months following the creation of the Midcounties and East of England societies and, more recently, the merger of Brixham Co-op with Plymouth & South West Society.