It currently has more than 60,000 members, 700 staff and a turnover of almost £70 million, more than double the turnover the society enjoyed ten years ago. Its trading profit for 2009-10 rose by 40 per cent to £1,408,298.
As well as trading in Chelmsford, the society has outlets in Braintree, Ingatestone, Danbury, Writtle, Hawkwell, Wickford, Southend, Brentwood, Canvey Island, South Benfleet, Tilbury and Shoeburyness. It currently operates more than 30 convenience stores, Quadrant department stores, travel centres and funeral services.
Chelmsford Star was formed in 1867, 20 years after the town’s first co-operative, a coal club. The society was formed by employees of the London Road Iron Works and they opened a shop in the town’s Tindal Street with the aim of becoming “the star of the county”.
That aim has since been modified to a vision that states: “We aspire to be the leading ethical retailer championing excellence in service, employment and community involvement in Essex” while the society’s mission is “to work together giving life and meaning to the co-operative difference by trading ethically in order to share our success and serve, support and sustain local communities”.
As the business developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the society opened shops throughout Chelmsford and by the 1940s the society also ran its own abattoir, mobile shops, travel department, clothing store and funeral service. Its education committee ran youth and children’s clubs and also ensured that International Co-operatives Day was celebrated by young and old.
A concern for community runs throughout the society’s history and practical illustrations can be seen throughout the society’s work — from providing food and clothing to alleviate poverty in the 1930s to running Charity of The Year appeals. In the 1970s the society organised a series of annual “It’s a Knockout” competitions followed in the 1980s by a series of family fun days.
A Community Card scheme enables local groups to generate cash for their groups through members shopping at the society’s stores, with Essex County Cricket Club among the largest participants.