One of the less impressive acts of the Co-operative Group before the great Co-op Bank meltdown was the time it allowed Thomas Cook in as majority partner of its Co-operative Travel operation, meaning that the ‘national co-operative brand’ established with so much effort and expense almost immediately included a business which was not co-operatively owned at all.
At long last this is to be resolved. The Thomas Cook/Co-op Group joint venture (which also included some outlets from what is now the Central England society) is being wound up with Thomas Cook buying out its co-operative partners. The shops will also be rebranded as Thomas Cook outlets – although not necessarily until the end of 2018.
In the meantime the Midcounties society gets in touch, keen to remind me that they never participated in the Thomas Cook partnership and that their travel agencies remain a direct part of their business. “We are not part of the Joint Venture and are proud of our travel business, proudly boasting the Co-operative name,” they say. Ironically for a time these genuinely co-operatively owned travel agencies were unable to use the national brand. They now boast a slightly adapted version of the brand, something which would no doubt horrify the original graphic designers but which seems to do the trick.