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Co-operatives Outpaced Growth of British Economy in 2012

Unity is Strength coop motto

Co-operatives have out-grown the British economy by more than ten times in 2012, according to figures released by Co-operatives UK.

The trade body for co-operatives said that in 2012 the turnover of the co-operative economy rose by 3.3 per cent on 2011’s results to £36.7 billion. In comparison, the gross domestic product for Britain in 2012 only grew by 0.3 per cent. Since the start of the recession in 2008, the co-operative sector has grown by more than 20 per cent.

Last year, the number of new co-operatives climbed by 236 to 6,169, a four per cent growth on 2011. During the year 1.9 million people also became members of co-operatives, making the total number 15.4m.

For the first time, six housing associations have been added to the top 100, which brings a collective turnover of £157m into the co-operative economy. Other new entrants include agricultural co-operative Torridge Vale at number 90 with a £10.2m turnover; Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club at 95 reporting an income of £8.7m; and Suffolk-based care service Leading Lives producing £8.3m revenue at 100.

Anglia Home Furnishings, which was originally part of the Anglia Regional Society and became an employee-owned co-operative in 2011, entered the top 100 at number 75 with a £14.2m turnover.

Retail co-operatives dominate the top of the list with the Co-operative Group holding onto the top spot with a £13.6bn turnover, a fall from £14.8bn the previous year. At number two, John Lewis Partnership increased its income from £8.2bn in 2011 to £9.5bn last year.

Midcounties Co-operative climbed two places to third with £942m of revenue; building supplier United Merchants was at four; agriculture grain marketing co-op Openfield at five; and Midlands Co-op ranked sixth.

Consumer co-operatives account for 49.5 per cent of all co-operative income in the UK. While employee-owned businesses, which can include worker co-operatives such as Dulas or John Lewis (owned by employees through a trust) represents 27.5 per cent.

Enterprise-owned co-operatives account for 19.3 per cent, which is described by Co-operatives UK as organisations that produce supplies, purchase goods or share services. And mixed ownership businesses, which are classified as community interest organisations, such as a football club or village shop, represent 3.6 per cent.

Across the UK, co-operatives created revenue of £29.86bn in England; £4.21bn in Scotland; £1.54bn in Wales and £1.13bn in Northern Ireland. Internationally, the British co-operative economy is ranked eighth in the world, compared to the overall UK GDP ranking 15th in the world.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: "This is a tough economic climate for all enterprises, but in Bootstrap Britain, it is co-operative businesses, which are providing an option for growth, for fairness, for innovation. From food retailers and foster carers to energy providers and child-care providers, the people behind these member-owned businesses are sowing the seeds for long term strength and resilience."

He added: "A record number of people in the UK are now members of co-operatives. They are economically active within those co-operatives and have a big stake in making them a success. This is why we can still see growth in the co-operative economy – despite the very tough economic trading conditions. More and more Briton’s are turning to co-operatives, taking greater control of their own destiny and growing their own way out of recession."

This article was originally posted at Cooperative News. To download the full report, visit:

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