Societies urged to attract more students

Retail societies have been urged to tap into a potentially rich membership seam by highlighting and promoting the Movement at colleges and universities.


The suggestion was made at the conference by Alan Miller, Group General Manager of IT, at Midcounties Co-op, who told delegates that the society signed up thousands of new members after agreeing to sponsor open days at two colleges in its trading area.

“It was absolutely stunning,” said Mr Miller. “We decided to engage with the colleges and sponsored their open days. Huge queues built up at our stand to join up while most of the other stands attracted only nominal interest. It’s simply because our values and principles resonate with young people.”

Mr Miller was responding to a question from East of England delegate Phil Hartwell who asked if the inspirational ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ DVD could be distributed to schools.

In this context, the Co-op Group’s Karen Froggatt praised the “fantastic work” being done by the Co-operative College in this area while Group director Frank Jones reminded the audience that the College had a lot of useful information which could be provided for children and young people.

Earlier, Mr Miller began his address by stating that Midcounties were a “proudly independent society operating within the Co-operative brand”. The brand, he said, was linked inextricably to membership and enabled the society to develop a membership proposition that promoted the Movement’s values and principles.

He explained that the new brand had been rolled out to society members in July 2007 following the merger involving the old Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester and West Midlands societies.

“Since then, our membership numbers have increased by 25 per cent to over 200,000 actively using the Midcounties card,” he said. “However I don’t think the growth can be attributed solely to the rebranding as the membership team have undertaken lots of activity alongside our trading colleagues.”

Added Mr Miller: “The decision to move to the Co-operative Group brand involved a significant leap of faith and involved a lot of effort both technically and operationally. But bringing the brands together helped our membership team engage a lot more effectively with our trading colleagues.

“If there’s a common will to make the national brand effective with strong regional societies working closely together with the Group, my view is that we could be astonishingly successful.”

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