A successful workers’ co-op is starting to dominate part of the high street in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Valley Organics has just opened a second shop almost opposite its first, which it took over from private owners in 2013. Co-op Loan Fund has provided a loan to help with the new premises. It also helped to fund the business purchase six years ago.
Valley Organics sells a wide range of groceries, bread, fruit, vegetables and household products, almost all of which are organic. The business has grown strongly over the last six years, despite serious floods. Turnover has increased by over 150 per cent and there are now nine workers (compared with six in 2013).
It had been clear for some time that the business had outgrown its shop at 31 Market Street, so taking on 16 Market Street, which has more than twice the shop floor area, was an obvious move. Instead of closing the first shop, Valley Organics is redeveloping the premises as a zero-waste outlet supplying loose goods where people bring their own containers. The new shop will sell packaged foods and a larger stock of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Hebden Bridge suffered from severe floods in 2012 and 2015, which forced many businesses, including Valley Organics, to close temporarily. In 2015, with the help of local people, they managed to open a pop-up shop and re-commence trading within 10 days. Being the only food shop open in the town for several weeks, trading was exceptionally good.
Valley Organics have incorporated many flood resilience measures at 16 Market Street, including waterproofed floors and walls, high level cabling, sump pump, emergency generator, steel plate glass windows, steel counter and shelving. The co-op has a flood protocol in place. When there is the risk of flood they take all low level stock and high value products to dedicated flood shelving. They also load the van and drive it to higher ground.
Alex Lawrence, one of the co-op members who was involved in the worker buyout six years ago, said: “Opening the new shop and keeping the old one will allow us to provide our loyal customers with more. Hebden Bridge is a small town and you have to stay close to community to do well. We are going to do more to promote zero-waste shopping and to support local growers.”
Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager of Co-operative & Community Finance which manages Co-op Loan Fund, said: “This is a very ethical and aware co-op that really understands its customers and the wider community and the environment. The operation has grown significantly over the last six years and they desperately needed more space. They have planned this expansion carefully and I am impressed by the many measures they have put in place to mitigate the risk of flooding.”