Survey provides mixed message for Movement

Co-operatives UK Secretary General Ed Mayo had good — and not so good — news for delegates in his address to the National Retail Consumer Conference.

Mr Mayo said co-operatives had re-established themselves on the nation’s agenda as a credible and successful alternative to plcs, but although recent research on behalf of the Movement’s representative body had revealed awareness statistics that “many commercial companies would die for” there were still some areas of concern.

Said Mr Mayo: “From our research, we know that 84 per cent of people say they know what a co-operative is. Co-operative businesses are widely perceived to be local (81 per cent), share their profits (79 per cent), fair (75 per cent) and customer owned (73 per cent).

“However, knowing what a co-operative is does not necessarily translate into recognition of co-operatives on a day-to-day basis. Only one in five people (22 per cent) can name more than one co-operative, while over two fifths of people (43 per cent) report that they cannot think of any co-operatives.”

Mr Mayo said around two-thirds of adults surveyed recognised co-ops as being trusted; honest; for the public good and inclusive,  while more than half rated the sector as democratic. 

He added: “A minority associate co-operative businesses with being ‘old-fashioned’ (40 per cent, although conversely 33 per cent say that we are ‘modern’). Older people tend to think we are old fashioned. Younger people that we are modern — that is a bit like having your cake and eating it.

“But there are weaknesses too. A minority of adults associate co-operatives with innovation (37 per cent). Importantly, only just over half of people see co-operatives as profitable.”

Mr Mayo said the survey findings represented an opportunity to take advantage of and urged the Movement  not  to rest on its laurels. 

“Some businesses use recession as a brake — to stop spending, stop hiring,” said Mr Mayo. “But others use it as an accelerator — to push through changes that are needed. The Co-operative Group’s new ‘Join the Revolution’ campaign hits the mark, in my view. It is bold and it is, after so many long years, unashamedly co-operative. We are not trying to be someone else — we are proud of being co-operative.”

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