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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The adaptability of consumer co-operatives to changes in retailing in Canada Riley, John Norman


Many changes have occurred in retailing practices in Canada in recent years. These changes have been caused, in part, by socio-economic and demographic shifts in Canada's population. The movement of population to urban areas, increased disposable incomes and the mobility of the consumer have caused the retailers to respond to the changes with a number of innovations. Among the innovations are the development of the supermarket, the shopping centre and the discount house. Particular attention is focused in the thesis on the progress and adaptability of consumer co-operatives to the changes taking place in retailing in Canada. A second area studied is that of efficiencies possible through the integration by co-operatives of the functions of retailing, wholesaling and manufacturing. The response of consumer co-operatives to change is assessed first, in terms of the long-established co-operatives in Great Britain, Sweden and the United States and, secondly, with respect to the operation of consumer co-operatives in Canada. British and Swedish consumer co-operatives carry out substantial portions of the retail trade of Great Britain and Sweden while the American consumer co-operatives are a minor factor of the retail trade of the United States. The British co-operatives recognized the need to assess their operations and appointed a commission of inquiry. The Swedish co-operatives have recently been re-organized, particularly with respect to the operation of department stores. A detailed analysis of consumer co-operatives in Canada indicates that the main source of sales has been in farm supplies and consumer goods in rural areas. Progress is being made, particularly in Western Canada, in the development of consumer co-operatives in urban areas. Two co-operative wholesale societies are discussed from the point of view of the integration of co-operative enterprises. It would appear that there is a possibility that the British Columbia Co-operative Wholesale Society and Federated Co-operatives Limited could achieve a higher degree of integration than now exists. A study of the Sherwood Co-operative Association in Saskatchewan indicates that this co-operative has radically altered both its facilities and the product lines offered over a thirty-year period. An analysis of a sample of member-purchasers showed that the co-operative relies on a small minority of members for the bulk of its sales volume. A further sample was developed in order to analyze the residential location of the membership. The latter sample indicated that although the membership of the co-operative in the period up to 1944 was essentially rural, in more recent years there has been an increased participation by people in metropolitan Regina. A mail survey of British Columbia co-operatives resulted in a response from nineteen co-operatives, of which nine were vendors of food products. The nine consumer co-operatives in food products expended over one million dollars for improvement and construction of facilities in the previous five years. Projects totalling over $750,000 are planned for 1962. Three general conclusions were reached in the study. 1. Consumer co-operatives are making progress and adapting to changes in retailing in Canada. 2. Benefits of integrated operations through co-operative wholesale societies are possible but in some instances are not fully realized by the consumer co-operative associations. 3. Consumer co-operative development in the large metropolitan areas is necessary for any substantial growth in consumer co-operative sales in the future.

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