Sunday, October 27, 2013

Co-Op First Self Service UK

If you browse for finding the first self service store in Britain then you'd have to dig very deep to find any mention of a co-operative bringing the concept from the USA to the UK. There was a recent three part documentary on shopping and retailing by the BBC and any part that the CWS or any co-operative society played in any retail innovation was seriously omitted.

The first own label goods are by the CWS date from 1873 and the use of own manufactured goods to beat the restrictions of Retail Price Maintenance are from 1906 with some patent medicines, and better known the Defiant Radios in 1933.

Now to the first self service grocery, it wasn't J.Sainsbury or Tesco but the London Co-Op Society who opened a small section in a Romford department store in 1942. Apparently introduced to alleviate staff shortages during the war. The first stand alone self service shop in Britain goes to Portsea Island Co-Op in March 1948. It's one of those great trivia facts that the city of Portsmouth is actually on an island linked by bridges to the English peninsular. Portsea island being the third most populated island the British Isles.

The London Co-Op Society sent a delegation to the USA and Canada as early as 1938 to study the self service format. The CWS sent a research team to the USA in 1947, and published guidance on how to run a self service outlet in 1949. The M&SE (Manchester & Salford Equitable) took to idea and started altering its existing stores the following year. Eventually the format came to the smaller stores like Hardy Lane in 1959.

 [ Information from the letter pages of the Co-Operative News in October 2013 ]

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