View from City Road: Co-operation on a merger

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The Independent Online
After 12 years of blowing hot and cold, Co-operative Retail Services at last looks as if it may be willing to agree a merger with its sister organisation, the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Industry gossip suggests CRS may outline its proposals when it announces its results next Thursday.

Merger would make a lot of sense. The two head offices - just two minutes apart in Manchester - could be combined, improving efficiency and saving costs. Adding its 300-plus food stores to CWS's 1,000 would improve buying power and make advertising more effective. Because both organisations are owned by their customers and suppliers, shoppers should reap the benefit through lower prices.

Previous merger attempts have foundered because of an inability to agree on a voting system that would give both corporate and individual members adequate representation. In the 150th anniversary year of the first co-operative shop in Rochdale, perhaps the time has come to bury such petty differences. After all, given the almost indecent rush among building societies to join the corporate herd, they may soon be one of the last bastions of the mutual movement left.

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