Victorian London - Directories - Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens, Jr., 1879 - "Co-operative Stores"

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Co-operative Stores.—A good deal of misunderstanding exists on the subject of what are called "Co-operative Stores." The co-operative principle is in itself plain enough, consisting simply in the clubbing together of a number of retail buyers for the purpose of procuring their joint requirements at wholesale prices: A purely co-operative association is one exclusively distributive, and distributive only among its own members to whom it re-issues the goods it has purchased with their money at just so much advance upon the price it has paid for them as shall cover the actual cost of the double transaction. Practically, however, it soon becomes obvious that this exact balance is not to be obtained, and that in order to ensure against loss it is necessary to have at least a "margin" of profit. To carry out the co-operative principle in its integrity, the accumulations accruing from time to time out of this margin should be distributed among the purchasers pro rata on the amount of their purchases. So much for theory. Practically the co-operative business of London is carried on upon a rather different principle. Even with those which most nearly approach the ideal, a considerable deviation has been made in the admission of a class of member called a ticket. holder, who, while paying a small fee—2s. 6d. or 5s. per annum—for permission to make his purchases at the stores, is entirely excluded in the profits, whilst the majority of the associations divide their accumulations simply on the basis of so much per share, without any reference to the amount laid out by the shareholder. Some so-called cooperative associations have neither shareholders nor ticket-holders— or at all events, do not limit their dealing to them—and are, an point of fact, not co-operative societies at all, but just large ready-money establishments, which, by the diminished expenses and rapid turnover of the "store" system, are enabled to offer their goods at little more than wholesale price. The principal real co-operative association are the Civil Service Supply Association, the Civil Service Co-operative Society, the Army and Navy Co-operative Society, the Port of London Co- operative Society, the International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society, the National Co-operative Supply Association, the London and Westminster Supply Association, the New Civil Ser vice, the Agricultutal and Horticultural Society, the Coal Co-operative Society, and the Ladies' Dress Association, particulars of each of which will be found under thei respective headings.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879