Co-op: Destined to be different

Co-op: Destined to be different
Picture by Jon Super.

Dating back to The Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, who set up a store to tackle many of the social issues and injustices in their society – fairness, diversity, equity and inequality, Co-op’s history is a rich and fascinating one, explains Declan Kavanagh, Co-op Operations Manager NI and is still as relevant today.

Co-op’s origins in Northern Ireland trace back to the Belfast Co-operative Society, itself dating back to the late 1800s and today operates 25 stores in Northern Ireland.

Declan has worked for Co-op for 25 years, joining the store in Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone as a deputy manager after graduating from the University of Ulster. His first post as store manager was in the Co-op store in Moy and he is now Operations Manager for the Co-op’s 25 NI stores.


One of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives with interests across food, funerals, insurance and legal services, Co-op is owned by millions of UK consumers. It operates around 2,500 food stores, over 800 funeral homes and provides products to over 5,000 other stores, including those run by independent co-operative societies and through its wholesale business, Nisa Retail Limited.

The additional services available in and provided by Co-op are what make it stand out from some of the retailer’s competitors,” said Declan.

‘While many things change and evolve in retailing, these values are still at the very heart of our Co-op and are still just as relevant – if not more so’

“Added services in our stores make a difference to the way we can serve our communities, as the needs and wants of consumers change and evolve. Not everyone is at home to take delivery of parcels – and so the ability to pop into the Co-op and pick up your parcels alongside bread, milk and the evening meal is helpful to

Gillian O’Loughlin (Co-op Member Pioneer – a role dedicated to connecting communities) presents a Co-op Local Community Fund cheque to representatives from Good Morning Ballymena.

time-pressed shoppers,” he said.

“It is all about making life easier, more convenient. We have five stores which operate a post office service, in addition we have stores operating Amazon parcel collection as well as Evri parcel collection.


“We are committed to offering value, with values – through our ethically sourced products. Whether that is Fairtrade, or our support for UK growers and farmers – for instance, all our own brand meat is from the UK, including in our sandwiches and ready meals.”

Extending support into the community is a key focus for Co-op, and the aim of all their stores is to operate at the heart of local life, added Declan.

“As a community retailer we work to serve and support our communities. Being a member of the Co-op is one way in which shoppers can help us to make a difference locally, simply by shopping with us,” he added.