Wholefood co-op celebrates 30 years

A wholefood shop and online retail co-operative business in Leicester is celebrating its 30th anniversary with the purchase of a new van, partly financed by the Co-operative Loan Fund.

Leicester Wholefoods operates from the same 4,600 sq ft warehouse on the outskirts of the city where it started trading in 1987. The majority of its customers come to the shop but an increasing number are ordering online and benefiting from the personal delivery service within 30 miles of the city.

The market for wholefoods has changed greatly over the last 30 years but the guiding principles of Leicester Wholefoods have not. Its aim remains to supply high quality natural and organic food that takes into account good nutrition, environmental concern and compassionate practice.

The worker co-op is managed democratically with all five members being trained on most aspects of the business. All staff are paid at the same hourly rate. One of the five, Paul Charnock, is a founder member who has a unique perspective on the business.

“For our first 20 years we supplied many shops, cafes and groups on a wholesale basis,” said Paul. “Although we had a big turnover the profit margin was very small. Since 2009 we have been concentrating exclusively on retail sales, both in the premises and online. We have invested in our website and social media and sales and profits have increased consistently for the last seven years.

“I see no reason why this growth should not continue. My only concern is the likely rise in prices of imported foods due to a weaker pound.”

Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager at Co-operative & Community Finance which manages the Co-operative Loan Fund, said: “We were delighted when this long-established worker co-op contacted us again after many years. They are rooted in the community and have a very loyal customer base. We are pleased to help them buy a new van in their 30th year.”