On December 21,1844, the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers opened their tiny shop at 31 Toad Lane. After working months to recruit 28 members and collect £28 in capital (£1 from each member), the store had finally opened. Unlike other shops, the Pioneers operated as a cooperative.
The shelves were sparsely stocked with butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and a few candles. Merchandise was soon expanded to include tea and tobacco and the co-op earned a reputation for providing unadulterated, high quality goods at a fair price.
While certainly not the first cooperative, the Rochdale Pioneers was the first successful modern co-op. What set the Pioneers up for success was the adoption of the now famous Rochdale Principles.
- Voluntary and open membership.
- Democratic control.
- Member economic participation.
- Autonomy and independence
- Education training and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for community
The principles continue to guide all modern retail co-ops. From their humble beginning, the co-op movement began and within 10 years there were nearly 1,000 cooperatives operating in Britain.
The Rochdale Pioneers work continues today with 4500 locations, 4.5 million active members, over 70,000 employees and revenue of £9.36 billion. http://www.coop.co.uk