Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fairtrade at Co-op

Fairtrade poster Co-op
It's Fairtrade Fortnight and for another year "The Co-operative" shews its support with 20 per cent off everything that is officially fairly traded. Like the way the co-op has stuck to selling fairtrade, it must be 19 long years now. Whilst the capitalist supermarket chains have blown hot, token gesture, and indifferent over the years, a band wagon to be hitched or ditched in pursuit of sales the co-operatives have added more and more lines.

This year they've added roses for those who take cut flowers home and mung bean sprouts for those who like to do a bit of wok cookery in the kitchen.

A point I've made many times in the past is the difficulty in making the engagement in shopping with the economic and political message. Who is aware of The Co-op Bank and the anti-shale gas campaign? Co-op stores struggle with this engagement. But so does every retail outlet.

It's the art in the bar experience. The owners want you to look at the nice pictures by a local artist they've tacked on the walls. You want a coffee and cake. Some might notice the pictures which makes everyone happy. Job done and success if you ignore the majority who were never aware of their surroundings. Anyway, was hoping to find the 99 Tea Gold, it's a stronger fairtrade brew, but Hardy Lane doesn't stock it. Ah well, you can't always get you want. Settle for a few bottles of the Malbec the fruity wine number from Argentina. It's fairtrade.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pioneers Display

Rochdale Pioneers DisplayTo promote the newly refurbished Rochdale Pioneers Museum there is a display of photographs with text at the Unicorn Co-Operative Grocery store in Chorlton.

It captures scenes from Toad Lane through the ages. The Pioneers only traded from this store for 23 years but it has become the shrine to the birthplace of co-operation.

You can probably give credit to George Jacob Holyoake for immortalising the Pioneers struggle and achievements with a book in 1857.

Rochdale Pioneers Display Fortunately the Co-operative Union had the foresight back around 1925 to buy the property when it was a pet shop and turn it into a museum.

Since then the story has been the subject of two films, in 1944 and 2012, several books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles.

Anyway it is a good display and many of the photographs will be new to a lot of people. A good example of co-operation between co-operatives.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Co-Op Check Tin

So you stumble over some item for sale, puzzled by the object and curiosity wants answers. Said item is a co-operative check tin possibly from the 1920's. It's not made by a co-operative but is made for co-operative shoppers to keep little slips of paper safe. On paying for their purchases customers were given a small paper receipt with the amount spent and their membership number.

I suppose some would keep these safe and calculate if their dividend on purchases had been tallied correctly. I suspect not many could be that bothered and accepted the dividend listed by the co-op head office.

Nostalgic history forums always quote people who can still remember their divi number of the family. It was ingrained into memory at an early age, for ever, and is recited for life.

Metal boxes were given away to promote a company's products. Who doesn't like a bright useful tin to keep safe items and make homes tidy. This one came compliments of Hargreaves Brothers & Co. and maybe dates from the 1920's. It's four sides announced that you must remember to buy the following :- Linoleo Floor Polish, Gipsy Black Lead, Ocean Blue in squares & Bags, and Glosso Metal Polish. An age of coal powered grime and relentless cleaning. Note those brand names they end in the letter "O". As in Brasso, Silvo, Zeppo and so on.

Hargreaves Brothers and Co started as makers of black lead and metal polish in Gipsyville which is in Hull way back in 1868. When this tin was issued the company may have been taken over by Reckitts & Son in 1922. An even older Hull company, founded in 1840 that also made starch and cleaning products.

Whether any of these products were sold alongside the CWS own brand, can't say. You get the impression from co-op histories that only CWS goods were sold but that wasn't the case. Leading brands and own brands did stack side by side in the stores. It's that co-operative magazines and advertising promoted CWS products. Very likely Glosso was available at your local co-op.
You can email : coop AT with any information that will help in the making of this history.