|Added by||John Barking|
|General Description :||The Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS) was a consumer co-operative based in south east London; taking its name from the royal munitions works (Royal Arsenal) at Woolwich.
Initially established in 1868 as the Royal Arsenal Supply Association by 20 workers from the Royal Arsenal, the society renamed itself Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society in 1872. In the century that followed, the society's activities expanded from food retail into a huge range of commercial, social & political activities. Having begun operations from a room of a house in Plumstead, by its height (circa 1975) the society had outlets across most of South London and parts of Hampshire, Berkshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Membership rose to 500,000 and sales exceeded £60million. Yet by 1985 its commercial problems were such that it merged into the national Co-operative Wholesale Society.
The RACS ran not just food shops (a founding aim of the UK consumer co-operative movement being the provision of cheap unadulterated food) but also milk, bread & fuel deliveries, department stores, a bookshop, jewellery department, shoe shops and chemists. Other services included removals, catering, undertakers (customers included Herbert Morrison), hairdressers, laundry, a travel agency, insurance & savings clubs. As was usual for such co-operative societies, members were paid a dividend in proportion to their spending with the society – at one point in embossed tin tokens, later by the quoting of a "Divi Number", towards the end by stamps.
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