To an unavoidable background tune of Bob Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind as part of a huge TV advertising campaign that at one point filled the entire gap between parts one and two of Coronation Street, the Co-op grew its business in 2009, also perhaps benefiting from greater recognition of corporate social responsibility among businesses and the company's reputation as one of the most ethical businesses in the country.
In October 2009, it announced first-half revenues up 27 per cent to £6.4bn and profits up 17 per cent year on year to £229m. Even without that Dylan-induced shot in the arm for awareness, the Co-op had a busy year integrating the acquisition of Somerfield stores and selling off some others to Morrisons and others after the Office of Fair Trading had demanded local competition be maintained. It also combined Co-operative Financial Services and Britannia in financial services.
Now with over 80,000 staff and with operations from food stores to internet banking, financial services, pharmacy, travel and funeral care, the Co-op may still be a co-operative but it is also a fiercely modern operator that combines ethics with efficiency. An example of that comes with the greening of stores to save electricity but also create improved operations, for instance through use of renewable energy and an IBM EPOS systems with wireless networks to automatically replenish stock orders, and with the ability to power down equipment when not in use and advertise other offerings while awake.