There was an editorial in The Times newspaper yesterday reflecting on the collapse of British Home Stores. The editorial concluded that ‘No more productive system has ever been devised than market exchange and capitalism’. As you know, the Co-op is a different and very successful way of doing business and has been for 170 years, so I wrote the following letter to the Times and its readers.

Letter to The Times:


Today’s article on the collapse of BHS suggests that ‘no more productive system has ever been devised than market exchange and capitalism’. There is an alternative. It’s called the Co-op and it is a different way of doing business. As a sector co-ops contribute £34 billion to the UK economy through more than 7,000 businesses owned by more than 17 million members who live and work in the communities we serve.

Being owned by the people they trade with means co-ops aren’t driven by short-term returns to shareholders or subject to the whims of private owners. Our owners have a direct say in how our businesses are run and how our profits are invested.

Co-ops have had their challenges. The Co-op I lead faced a near death experience a couple of years ago which other business models arguably wouldn’t have survived. But being owned by members meant long-term decisions taken in the interests of the many not the few. Decisions which saw the Co-op and the 70,000 jobs we support survive and now begin to thrive.

We all feel most for the people caught up in the collapse of BHS but if the fallout shines a light on a different way of doing business that benefits us all, some good will have come of it.

Richard Pennycook
Co-op Group CEO

Find out more about how UK co-op’s contribute to the economy.
Watch how we’re going back to being Co-op.

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. These comments are now nearly two years old and some now need to be brought up to date. I could make some comment based upon experiences of my local Co-op about 70 years ago which, despite this, may still be of significance and help in the present day,

  2. richard derserves a medal for rescuing the coop group

  3. Well done Richard , we hide our Co-operative model a bit like a light under a bushel . We need to highlight it at every opportunity .

  4. Philip Green should be made to pay back the money he took, and serve a jail sentence.
    The leniency extended to so called business people would not be a model for staff who stole.
    |The demise of the co-op ?
    I do not think members were consulted about bthe sale of land to the Chinese , or the sale of shops that is happening now, the business built by the co-op and it’s members is being destroyed.


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