Midcounties Co-operative

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The Midcounties Co-operative Limited
Consumer Co-operative
Industry Retail (Wholesale)
Founded 2005 (1853)
Headquarters Warwick Technology Park
Products Food, Pharmacy, Funeralcare, Travel, Childcare, Post Office Flexible Benefits and Energy
Revenue £1.167 billion
Number of employees
9,000
Website www.midcounties.coop

The Midcounties Co-operative is the largest independent consumer co-operative in the United Kingdom with 667,000 members.[1] Registered in England under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, it is a member of Co-operatives UK and the Co-operative Retail Trading Group.

The Society's principal activity is retailing in the English Midlands. Its trading groups are Food, Funeralcare, Travel, Pharmacy, Post Office, Childcare, Flexible Benefits and Energy. The Midcounties Co-operative has its headquarters in Warwickshire, with trading outlets in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Shropshire, West Midlands, Worcestershire and the surrounding counties, but also has a national trading presence through its Travel, Childcare, Energy and Flexible Benefits businesses.

As of mid 2013, Midcounties became a £1bn business with more than 500 sites and 439,000 members. In 2014 trade with members as a proportion of total sales increased to over 45%.

The Midcounties Co-operative invests in the communities in which it trades through responsible trading, local sourcing, community projects and charitable work. The co-op invested 17.6% of its 2013-2014 pre-tax profits (£1.8m) into the communities in which it trades. This figure is significantly higher than the average value for large UK co-ops (6.9%) or other rival supermarkets (2.4%).[2] The Society was a pioneer of the Fair Tax Mark[citation needed] and has been ranked in the Sunday Times 25 Best Big Companies to Work For list in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.[3][4]

It has also invested in Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative in Watchfield, Oxfordshire, identified by its promoters as the UK's largest community-owned wind farm at its opening in 2008.[5]

The founding (non-executive) president is Patrick Gray.

A problematic upgrade to its online customer service and billing system resulted in it being the most complained about utility company at the end of 2015.[6][7][8] By the end of 2016 these issues had been resolved and the company was paying out £1.8 million in compensation to customers.[9]

History[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative was formed in 2005, by the merger of the Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-operative Society and the West Midlands Co-operative Society. As a result, the Society's geographical trading area spans seven counties, including Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Following the inception and growth of the Travel, Childcare, Flexible Benefits and Energy businesses, it is now a nationally trading Society.

Some of the earliest predecessor societies that combined with others to eventually form The Midcounties Co-operative are:

The Society is governed by general meetings of its members.
Community Formed
Swindon 1853
Gloucester 1860
Chipping Norton 1866
Walsall 1866
Oxford 1872
Cinderford 1874

Businesses[edit]

The Co-operative food store in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.

The Midcounties Co-operative is one of several independent co-operatives that uses The Co-operative brand across its businesses. These are:

Food[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative is one of the largest independent food retailers in the country[citation needed] with 238 stores, operating as The Co-operative Food.

Pharmacy[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative owns 46 pharmacies, operating as The Co-operative Pharmacy. The group offers a wide range of extended services to customers, such as support to quit smoking, medicine use reviews, a weight management service and asthma reviews.The Pharmacy group controls the co-operativehealthcare.co.uk website and in 2013 launched a new Online Doctor service providing online medical care and prescriptions direct to customers' homes.

Funeralcare[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative, operating as The Co-operative Funeralcare, owns 80 funeral homes and three masonry sites. The group has over 150 years' experience in providing Funeralcare to its local communities.

Travel[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative operates 57 travel branches across Midcounties' trading area and controls the Cooptravel.co.uk & Co-operativeski.co.uk websites. The Travel business is branded as Co-operative Travel (Part of the Midcounties Co-operative) and is not to be confused with The Co-operative Travel, which is owned and operated by Thomas Cook and which is being rebranded to the Thomas Cook name during 2017–18. It can be difficult to differentiate between the brands, but look out for the dark blue signage & online presence (as well as the Midcounties reference) for Cooptravel.co.uk, compared to the bright orange signage of the other Co-operative Travel.

Childcare[edit]

In 2002, the Society became the first UK co-operative to open a children's day care facility. Co-operative Childcare now operates 45 nurseries across the UK. The acquisition of the Buffer Bear nursery chain in 2010 saw its Childcare business begin to trade nationally, with nurseries spanning from Newcastle to Southampton.

Energy[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative's energy business, The Co-operative Energy, supplies gas and electricity to UK homes. The business was criticised by customers in 2015 after a failed IT upgrade to its online customer service and billing system caused numerous problems and a large backlog in dealing with issues.[10] In the first quarter of 2015 it was the fourth most complained about utility company, measured in complaints per thousand customers.[6] In subsequent quarters it became the second worst and then the worst for the period July–September according to the official Energy Ombudsman.[8][11] By the end of 2016 these issues had been resolved and the company was paying out £1.8 million in compensation to customers.[9]

Co-operative Flexible Benefits[edit]

Co-operative Flexible Benefits turned over £28m in 2013/14, providing Childcare Voucher and Cycle to Work schemes.[citation needed] They currently[when?] service over 970 employers.[citation needed]

Post Office[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative operates 74 Post Offices employing 293 colleagues, remaining the fourth largest multiple operator of Post Offices in the UK.[citation needed]

Telecommunications[edit]

On 28 April 2018 the members of The Phone Co-op voted to transfer its engagements to (i.e. merge with) Midcounties. A confirmatory vote held after the Midcounties AGM on 12 May 2018 was passed,[12] allowing Midcounties to thus broaden its utilities offer. The merger took place on 1 June 2018, with members of The Phone Co-op joining Midcounties membership.[13]

Former businesses[edit]

Motorworld (also known as The Co-operative Motors) was a co-operative car dealership. Its franchises included Volkswagen, Audi, Volvo, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Hyundai. The Midcounties Co-operative intended it to be the most socially responsible car dealership in the UK, but sold it off in January 2010 at a loss of £2.4 million.[14][15]

Membership[edit]

Membership is open to all, with members receiving a share of the profits in the form of dividend. When members join they are required to invest a minimum of £1 which entitles them to a share in the business. The scheme is run in conjunction with The Co-operative Group membership, allowing a Midcounties card to be used at businesses operated by other participating societies.

The membership card allows members to collect points either by spending in stores or attending events. Points are converted to vouchers twice yearly, usually in May and November. The vouchers can be spent in any of The Midcounties Co-operative's trading outlets, paid into the member's share account or donated to charity.

Values and responsible trading[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative has four values on which the business is run, consisting of Democracy, Openness, Equality and Social Responsibility. These values are dervied from the Co-operative Movement's founding values. The Society is run in a democratic way, with its Board of Directors voted for by its members, it aims to be open and honest with its colleagues and members, strives to promote and embrace equality and is committed to helping its local communities through grant giving and volunteer work, and it also aims to be more environmentally friendly.

Midcounties Co-operative did however fail to pay the national minimum wage to some newspaper delivery staff for four years, and following a HM Revenue and Customs investigation in 2016 paid more than £14,000 back pay due to one staff member. This is the highest single payout made in the UK following a HMRC investigation. In 2014 an internal complaint had been made, but this had been rejected by Midcounties Co-operative management. Back pay may be due to up to 200 other newspaper delivery staff. The breach was due to Midcounties Co-operative unreasonably estimating the time taken to carry out a delivery round. Additionally one member of staff was working seven days a week and taking little holiday, a breach of the working time regulations.[16][17]

Community work[edit]

The Midcounties Co-operative has a strong commitment to investing in the communities in which it trades through responsible trading, local sourcing, community projects and charitable work. To this end the co-op invested 17.6% of its 2013-2014 pre-tax profits (£1.8m) into the communities in which it trades. This figure is significantly higher than the average value for large UK co-ops (6.9%) or other rival supermarkets (2.4%).[2] In 2014 the society provided support for over 10,000 community groups and encouraged colleagues to volunteer over 23,500 hours to support local communities.[18]

The co-op supports 40 local foodbanks and in 2014 enabled 10,000 products to be donated from its food stores.[citation needed]

Fair Tax[edit]

The society firmly believes that community retailers should pay all taxes which are due and should not engage in aggressive artificial tax avoidance. In 2013 the society set out its tax charter and in 2014 the co-op became one of the first 3 businesses in the UK to be awarded the Fair Tax Mark.[19] This certification shows that the business is transparent about its tax affairs and does not engage in tax avoidance.

Environment[edit]

Energy consumption across the business is down by 10% since 2009 and own brand packaging is down by 39% since 2006.[citation needed] The society recycles over 80% of its waste (2014) with food waste being converted into renewable energy.[citation needed] All electricity used by the business comes from renewable sources.[citation needed]

In contrast to this, and the group's stated environmental values, the Co-operative Energy business, run by The Midcounties Co-operative, purchases only 4% of its electricity from renewable sources.[citation needed] It also has a relatively large portion of coal within its main fuel mix.[citation needed]

Co-operative Development[edit]

The co-op provided £100,000 of support for co-operative development though its 'Co-operative Futures' project. In 2014, 83 co-operatives were advised or supported by Co-operative Futures and 17 new registrations of co-operatives were completed. Its total commitment to supporting the growth of co-operatives in 2014 was £280,000.[18]

Key achievements[edit]

The Society was ranked in the Sunday Times 25 Best Big Companies to Work For list, which is based on employee feedback, in 2011 (24th place), 2012 (24th place), 2013 (13th place) and 2014 (10th place).[3][4]

Co-operative Energy received an award from independent consumer body, Which?, for Consumer Action.[citation needed]

The Society was awarded Platinum in the Business in the Community Corporate Responsibility Index 2012 and 2013. In 2014 the society was awarded 4.5 stars in the index, reflecting a score of 98% and in 2015 was one of 4 companies to achieve the highest available 5 star rating.[20]

Co-operative Energy won Best Corporate Venture at the UK Corporate Entrepreneur Awards 2011.[citation needed]

Co-operative Employee Benefits achieved the ISO9001 standard, which acknowledges the quality of the management system they have in place.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Midcounties Co-op Annual Report 2017-18 https://www.midcounties.coop/siteassets/reports/2017-2018-annual-report--accounts.pdf
  2. ^ a b "Community investment index: giving back to neighbourhoods". Thenews.coop. 2015-02-24. Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 2015-06-25. 
  3. ^ a b "The Midcounties Co-operative's Award Win Proves Co-operatives are Effective and Relevant". 31 March 2014. Accessed 2 October 2017
  4. ^ a b "Midcounties Co-operative wins two-star rating in Sunday Times 25 Best Big Companies to Work For list". 6 January 2014. Accessed 2 October 2017
  5. ^ Westmill Wind Farm Celebrates Success of Public Share Launch Archived 4 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Energy4All Press Release, 5 December 2005
  6. ^ a b "Ofgem reveals most complained about energy companies-and small isn't necessarily best". 9 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Brignall, Miles (15 August 2015). "Co-op Energy customers angry at six months' wait for bills" – via The Guardian. 
  8. ^ a b "IT problems hit Co-operative Energy service". 11 November 2015 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  9. ^ a b "Co-operative Energy to pay £1.8 million compensation to customers over service". The Evening Express. Archived from the original on 31 October 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016. 
  10. ^ "Co-op Energy faces customer backlash following". Moneysavingexpert.com. 2015-03-25. Retrieved 2015-06-25. 
  11. ^ "Co-op Energy: regulator sets sights on the new worst culprit for billing bungles". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  12. ^ "Phone Co-op members vote for Transfer of Engagements to Midcounties Co-operative". Charity PR. 15 May 2018. 
  13. ^ "Membership FAQs". The Phone Co-op. Retrieved 19 July 2018. 
  14. ^ "Midcounties Co-operative completes sale of Motorworld Group". Am-online.com. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2015-06-25. 
  15. ^ "Annual Report and Accounts" (PDF). Misdcounties.coop. Retrieved 2015-06-25. 
  16. ^ Robert Booth (25 September 2016). "Midcounties Co-op makes record payout to worker who earned below minimum wage". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2017. 
  17. ^ Anca Voinea (28 September 2016). "Midcounties pays £14,000 to delivery man for breach of minimum wage laws". Co-operative News. Retrieved 18 February 2017. 
  18. ^ a b "The Midcounties Co-operative : Social Responsibility Report 2014/2015" (PDF). Midcounties.coop. Retrieved 2015-06-25. 
  19. ^ "Fair-Tax-Mark-Community-Share-Offer-28-April-2014" (PDF). Fair Tax Mark. Retrieved 27 December 2016. 
  20. ^ "CR Index 2016: Results and analysis". 19 April 2016. 

External links[edit]