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Trade | The Dividend | Products | Savings and Clubs


The ways in which members purchased goods changed over time. As well as cash purchases and account books recording the purchases of customers some societies offered alternative methods. For example, some societies issued pre-paid tokens that could be exchanged at a later date for specific goods or in place of payment.

Many of the co-operative societies in Wales issued trade tokens. Examples of tokens issued include tokens for large and small loaves by Ferndale Co-operative Society and for 5 shillings by Taibach and Port Talbot Co-operative Society. [SWCC/MND/137/2/28/3 and SWCC/MND/137/2/64/11]

The Dividend
The dividend, or ‘divi’, is perhaps, the most well recognised feature of the Co-op. The dividend is the amount of money that members would receive from part of the society’s profits, the amount being proportionate to their purchases made at the society’s store during a particular period. This was usually expressed as being so many pence to the pound, such as 1s/6d to the £. The level of the dividend would depend on the system operated by the society as well as other economic influences. For example, although many of the Co-operative Societies were affected by the industrial unrest of the 1920s, in contrast to a dividend of 6d in the £ paid by the Mid-Rhondda Co-operative Society to its members in the spring of 1922 no dividend was paid to members of the Ynysybwl Co-operative Society. The ‘divi’ was phased out in the 1970s, only to be reintroduced in 1998.


The report and balance sheet published by Ynysybwl Co-operative Society to its members for the six months ending 4 April 1922 gives the reasons for the committees decision not to pay a dividend to its members for that period, namely because of the industrial depression. [SWCC/MND/137/2/73/2]


As co-operative societies developed, the range of products and services they offered expanded, catering for every need. Whilst in their early days societies concentrated on everyday requirements, namely unadulterated and reasonably priced foods, which they offered in competition to shops connected with particular companies, known as ‘truck’ shops, and private traders. However the range of products sold quickly branched out. Clothing, boots and household goods were extended to include furniture and electrical goods.


The products offered by Co-operative stores were wide-ranging and included goods made by the Co-operative Wholesale Society as well as other manufacturers and suppliers. The excellent quality and competitive prices for everyday household essentials such as tea, biscuits and soap, together with good service, lead many people, including non-members, to shop at Co-operative Society stores. [SWCC/MND/137/2/31/1]

The mid-twentieth century saw a change in the way people shopped, and the Co-operative Societies reflected these developments. The first self-service store was opened by the London Co-operative Society in 1942, and other Societies quickly followed suit. There was also a movement away from smaller stores towards larger department stores and supermarkets, and with it diversity in trade, with Co-operative Societies developing funeral, finance and pharmacy businesses. However, the customers trust in the quality and cost are still key factors, as are the principles behind the Co-operative Movement, such as ethical banking and Fairtrade products.


Savings and Clubs
Co-operative societies often offered members ways to save in addition to the periodical payment of the dividend. Clubs focussed around particular seasons or products, such as Christmas club at Pontycymmer and a chocolate club at Pembroke Dock, were organised. Penny banks and small savings banks at individual co-operative societies enabled members to put small amounts of money aside ready for a rainy day.

Photograph of the interior of Pembroke Dock Co-operative Society store with a poster about its Chocolate Club. [SWCC/MND/137/2/48/14]

Photograph of co-operative store at Llantwit Fardre, with a notice encouraging members to join its Christmas Club Christmas clubs were a popular way of saving for the festivities and many Co-operative Societies operated them. [SWCC/MND/137/2/39/1]

Suggested further reading:
• Co-operative Financial Services -



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