Monday, 5 March 2007

Merger Meeting

United Co-op amalgamation with Co-operative Group - briefing meeting, no voting required. There is a 24 page booklet to go with the event - see blurred photo above.

We're in a room of the Palace Hotel, Manchester. I'm impressed by the high ceilings, tiles and the Alfred and Peter Waterhouse architecture (it used to be the Refuge Assurance building, and it is a gem of late Victorian design). Attendance is about 65 members, and some of them clearly don't like the coffee or the venue. Two speakers, some slides and Duncan Bowdler (Co-op Party member and Director ) doing his calm chairing and fielding questions.

Will the merger go ahead? Judging by tonights questions, and members who don't ask questions but like to hear their voice with an audience, I would say yes. The realisation that the Co-op might not be trading in 10 years in face of the competition has hit home - 4% of grocery turnover and still falling (Tesco 30%, other three have 45%). As was said a few times at tonight's meeting - why wasn't this happening 7 years ago? A national Co-op Society, as recommended by the Co-operative Commission last century - eventually but the wheels of legacy move very, very slowly.