Northern Co-operative Society

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Not to be confused with Norco milk.
Northern Co-operative Society is located in Scotland
Northern Co-operative Society
Aberdeen is Scotland's 3rd largest city

Northern Co-operative Society Limited (abbreviated to Norco), previously named Northern Co-operative Company Limited, was a local consumer co-operative trading in Aberdeen, Scotland, from 1861 to 1993.[1][2] It operated supermarkets and other businesses throughout Aberdeenshire, and employed 2000 people in 1992.

It was put into the hands of a receiver for liquidation in 1993, as a result of financial difficulties that The Guardian newspaper attributed to "an over-ambitious building and development programme" and failed attempts to dispose of the entire business as a going concern, despite the successful sale of its dairy, five pharmacies, and then several supermarkets to Argyll Stores and the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS).[1][2]


Scottish Co-op sold Norco's Berryden superstore to J Sainsbury, still as a going concern, in 2000.[3][4][5]

Norco was formed in 1861 as Northern Co-operative Company, by two committees of Aberdeen residents who planned to follow the example of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society.[1] The first shop was a grocery business at 51 Gallowgate, opened in July that year.[1] The original company had a fixed capital of £1000, but in 1917, it converted into Northern Co-operative Society.[1]

The Society's headquarters were in a large building on Loch Street, which contained the company's offices as well as an arcade-style shopping area. It was described in 2000 as "like Convent Garden (sic) – a delightful, quaint area at the centre of the city where people could stroll" by Connie Leith, head of the Ferryhill Heritage Society.[6]

Norco House, a large department store which replaced the Loch Street building, was opened in George Street in 1970, less than 100 feet from the original building.[1] The trading name of Norco was soon adopted by the entire co-operative.[1] The "space-age" four storey Norco House department store was later bought, refurbished and operated by the John Lewis employee-owned chain.[6] The old Loch Street building remained empty and slowly deteriorated until its eventual demolition in 1986.

In 1977, Norco opened a 54,000 square feet (5,000 m2) flagship superstore in the Berryden district of Aberdeen.[1][3][7] The Berryden store was sold to the Scottish Co-op in 1993 immediately before the receivership, and operated by that co-operative for seven years.[1][7][8]

In April 1992, Norco declared a loss of £7 million, and the chief executive, Robin Pollock, resigned.[1][7] Emergency measures included a massive sell-off of businesses, and a pay freeze.[1] Kennerty Dairies (since bought by Robert Wiseman Dairies) bought Norco's Berryden dairy, and Argyll Group bought supermarkets in Banchory, Elgin, Ellon and Westhill.[7] Finally, in 1993, Norco approached Scottish Co-op with a view to a rescue merger, but the latter organization declined the request.[1][2]

Operations and co-operative movement[edit]

Norco was previously noted as the only large consumer co-operative in the UK not to be a member of the Scottish or English Co-operative Wholesale Societies.

It employed 2000 people in 1992, when the financial problems became apparent, and on going into receivership in June 1993, it had 800 employees.[2]

Its trading area included the Aberdeenshire and Moray towns of Banchory, Elgin, Ellon, Kemnay, Inverurie, Port Elphinstone and Westhill.[1][7] At its peak it had branches and departments throughout the city of Aberdeen.[1] Since the demise of Norco, the tradition of consumer co-operation in Aberdeenshire has been continued or revived by three southern organizations: Scotmid Co-operative, Lothian, Borders & Angus Co-operative and Scottish Co-op (a retail division of CWS, now the Co-operative Group.)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "NORCO - Records of the Northern Co-operative Society". Aberdeen City Archives. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d Seumas Milne (18 June 1993). "Scottish co-op calls in receiver". The Guardian. via Proquest News UK. Retrieved 4 July 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "MORE CWS SUPERSTORES SOLD". The Grocer. via Find Articles at BNET. 16 September 2000. Sainsbury has purchased the 53,600sq ft store at Berryden,Aberdeen 
  4. ^ "retailing UK News 2000". UK Business Park. 12 September 2000. 
  5. ^ Bob Reid (23 September 2003). "Retail Study Report" (PDF). Aberdeen City Council Resources Management Committee. p. 5. Sainsbury's have taken over the Scottish Co-op superstore at Berryden 
  6. ^ a b David Ewen (24 June 2000). "PULL THEM ALL DOWN: Heritage chief blasts the city's 60s eyesores". Aberdeen Press and Journal. NewsBank via Europe Intelligence Wire. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Tim Pauling and Alastair McNeill (27 June 2000). "Co-op's shock sell-off threatens 200 city jobs". Aberdeen Press and Journal. NewsBank via Europe Intelligence Wire. p. 6. Retrieved 14 August 2008. 
  8. ^ In 1993, Scottish Co-op was a retail division of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, from 2001 the Co-operative Group.