As we are about to have another Co-op shop here in Bognor Regis, at the end of Hillsboro Road at its junction with Chichester Road, I thought I would look back on its history both nationally and here in the town.
I once received a request about the Co-op in Bognor Regis back in 2015 when there was talk of demolishing one of the shops in Hawthorn Road. How many people can remember their Co-op dividend number or that of their parents? My parent’s number was 11188.
This was a number unique to you and one which allowed you to collect your dividend, I think, annually. As part of the Co-operative Society’s policy of profit sharing, a dividend of 1s 8d (8p) in the £ was paid to those who joined.
For a number of years, the dividend could be collected from the church hall in Sudley Road, at the rear of St John’s Church, today the site of Boots and W.H. Smith.
Stamps were later given, in the same way as the old Green Shield stamps, and these were redeemable in the stores. No store cards to remember, just your number when asked in the shop – certainly less to carry around and much safer.
Nationally, the first co-operative was registered in 1863 in Rochdale and, eventually, there were 300 co-ops, predominantly in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Did you know that the Co-operative Society was established in 1873 in Portsmouth? The expansion of the local Co-operative to Chichester and beyond was due to suburban growth. Do you know how many sites there have been in the town over the years and their locations today?
For many years, the Co-op milk depot was situated in Ockley Road, where today we have cars. When I was living in Gainsboro Road in the 1970s, it was very handy just to nip around the corner to get your milk and fresh Devonshire cream for any special occasion, or the unexpected visitor.
this service was eventually moved to Chichester, the local yard closed and the buildings were demolished.
The first Co-op shop opened in the town in 1933 was known as Pimco – Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society. This store was located in Canada Grove, apparently facing the Pavilion Gardens, as their point of reference. It was then the Aladdin’s Cave for 35 years and is now a European supermarket.
The Co-op advertising at this time included mention of just one of their services – that of ‘the collection and delivery of orders free to all parts of the district’. Apparently, it was necessary to mention that ‘full dividend was given’ even for orders delivered.
During the Second World War, their advertising remarked you could ‘enjoy your holiday’ with the phrase, ‘let the Co-operative take care of your emergency ration cards’. By now, the advertisement included its branches in North Bersted and Hawthorn Road.
With the growth in population by the 1950s, the Co-op business in the town was expanding and so it required larger premises. To meet its needs, two sites in the High Street were purchased. One site was at No 62, which was a two-storey building between the old bus station and Cleeves on the corner, where today we have the NatWest Bank.
This site is thought to have been built around the 1820s and was occupied for a time by Wade’s the builder and, after the Second World War, by one of the town’s second-hand dealers, Mr Ashton.
This store in the High Street sold almost everything, similar to that which today we purchase in any of the out of town supermarkets. The original store was demolished and a Co-op department store was constructed and opened in August, 1957.
In addition, another shop across the road at No 55 was bought, and this was the self-service food hall, which also opened in August, 1957.
Garforth’s next occupied the site, now a supermarket. The food hall was on the ground floor and an upper floor was for staff rooms, as in 1958 they anticipated employing in the region of 40–55 people in these two stores, all of whom were to be recruited locally.
The society’s secretary at the time, remarked that the ‘food hall would be self-serve – a trend that was only just beginning to make its presence felt’.
The first day of opening for the department store saw customers being enticed by opening offers, which included such a range of goods including white weather duffle coats for boys, from 35/- (£1.75p) and long-sleeved men’s shirts at 15/- (75p). Axminster carpets were also available from 42/- (£2.10p).
Now take your mind back to those very popular uncut moquette studio couches that were all the rage for a princely sum of £28 9s 6d or 104 weekly payments of £2 9 0d. I wonder if there are any still in a bedsit somewhere in the town?
They also sold a range of the somewhat new plastic items, including tables, cake dishes, flowerpot holders and even plastic waste paper bins at 3/- or 15p.
Eventually, trade and tastes were to change. Out of town shopping was becoming more popular and the main store was beginning to struggle and changed to become known as Co-op Homemaker.
Here, items for the home were the order of the day and in one advertisement in 1983 you could purchase an Amstrad colour television 14ins portable for £169.95.
this store also closed and for a number of years was taken over by a company called Tracey’s which also sold furniture and household items.
During 1982, the Co-op advertised that as the organisation was 100 years old, it had mounted a search to find citizens who were 100 years old during the month of November. These people or their families were asked to contact the society now known as the Caring Sharing Co-op.
In Hawthorn Road, the shop continued and without its main town centre shops, the Co-op looked for other sites and with the closure of the Olby’s/Cover’s site in Hawthorn Road at the junction with Gravits Lane, the Co-op purchased the site and a new supermarket was built in 1993. This meant there were two Co-op stores in the one road for a time and serving the needs of their locality.
Within months, the smaller Co-op became a Spar shop. Another major change was at the Kings Beach Hotel in Pagham, which is now a Co-op in addition to the one in the Rose Green area.