Fairtrade hero John Bowes dies at 59

One of the Co-operative Movement’s top marketers died unexpectedly last week whilst undergoing treatment for a heart condition.

John Bowes, 59, was the Co-operative Group’s Chief General Manager, Marketing, up until his retirement in 2004. He will be remembered by friends and colleagues across the Movement as one of the key architects of the 

Co-operative Retail Trading Group, and a driving force behind the Group’s responsible retailing activity. 

In a co-operative career spanning over 30 years John, a graduate of the London School of Economics, worked his way through the management ranks, starting as Assistant Product Manager in the former CWS Provisions Group and progressing to Product Manager and later  Marketing Manager for CWS wines and spirits. 

By the early ‘80s John’s talents were in demand and he was recruited to increasingly senior roles as a Buying Group Head and Marketing Manager Retail Liaison, a role which brought him into regular contact with independent retail societies and equipped him to become a key member of the team that created CRTG. 

But, it was as Corporate Marketing Manager that John was influential in developing the Group’s responsible retailing strategy, and, in particular, the Group’s commitment to Fairtrade, about which he was passionate. 

After a spell as Chief Officer for the Cumbria Region, in 1996, John realised his ambition to become a General Manager when he took over Strategic Planning for the Group. But it wasn’t long before he returned to the food business to assume overall responsibility for marketing as General Manager and later Chief General Manager. 

On taking early retirement in 2004, John followed his passion for books and writing and combined them with his interest in Fairtrade, penning, amongst other books, the “The Fair Trade Revolution” — the story of the development of the UK Fairtrade market. He also took up the part time role of Managing Director of AgroFair — the pioneering Fairtrade fruit organisation and most recently he was the Chair of Twin Trading, a Fairtrade development company that has launched brands such as Café Direct. 

Paying tribute to John, Malcolm Hepworth the former Chief Executive of the Group’s food business, said: “John was a friend and colleague with a tremendous intellect and exceptional communications skills. He was committed to the co-operative business model and the values and principles on which it is built. Indeed, he was instrumental in bringing them back to life through his work on responsible retailing. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.” 

John is survived by his wife, Denise; son, Richard; daughter, Lisa and partner Graham, and grandchild, Eloise.

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