Belfast Telegraph

Co-op rebrands as it brings back members' dividend

By John Mulgrew

Grocery chain the Co-op has unveiled plans to bring back its annual payout for members across Northern Ireland.

The group, which has 41 food stores as well as 23 funeral homes in Northern Ireland, is also rebranding.

The company’s store on the Lisburn Road will be one of the first outlets to change back to its old ‘blue clover’ leaf logo.

The Co-op says the new membership benefits will see the UK’s biggest mutual hand back £1.2m a year to members and communities in Northern Ireland.

The group employs around 1,000 staff in Northern Ireland.

The changes mean a return to the so-called ‘divvy’ or dividend, which was once part of the fabric of existence for many members.

Members received a share of the company’s trading profits.

Ulster Unionist MLA Alan Chambers grew up with the dividend as part of his early life.

And Mr Chambers — who is originally from east Belfast but now runs a newsagent’s in Groomsport, Co Down — said the Co-op was an “absolutely core” part of life.

“People in those areas wouldn’t have had food on the table if it hadn’t been for the Co-op,” he said.

“You were allowed to run up a debt, which you would square up at quarter end.

“Having that facility kept working class families fed.

“You got a dividend based on what you spent. Food would have added to it, and the more you spent, the more you got. For example, if you bought electrical goods in York Street, you got more.

“It was absolutely core. People supported it, and it, in turn, supported the people. It was truly co-operative and it’s full of nostalgia for me.”

Members will receive a 5% reward for any purchases they make of Co-op own brand products and services, with a further 1% directly benefiting causes in the community.

The group says the benefits will be available to all members from autumn this year and by 2018 will amount to more than £13m a year.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of Co-op retail, said:“This is what the Co-op is all about. Big business is often accused of taking money out of communities — we are putting it back in as we champion a better way of doing business for our members and their communities.

“Our intention is to return to paying a dividend again, but we also want to make the rewards for members who trade with the Co-op more meaningful and community focused.”

Belfast Telegraph