Swimming against the tide towards the mainstream the cws fred lambert 1956 1970 an unsung visionary
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Swimming against the Tide towards the Mainstream: The CWS & Fred Lambert, 1956-1970 - an Unsung Visionary? . Tony Webster: Mainstreaming Co-operation: An Alternative for the 21 st Century?. The post war context & the problems of the Co-operative Movement 1945-1973.

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Tony Webster: Mainstreaming Co-operation: An Alternative for the 21 st Century?

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Swimming against the tide towards the mainstream the cws fred lambert 1956 1970 an unsung visionary

Swimming against the Tide towards the Mainstream: The CWS & Fred Lambert, 1956-1970 - an Unsung Visionary?

Tony Webster: Mainstreaming Co-operation: An Alternative for the 21st Century?


The post war context the problems of the co operative movement 1945 1973

The post war context & the problems of the Co-operative Movement 1945-1973

  • Rise of consumer society – declining loyalty and engagement with collective organisations – declining activity and loyalty of membership (Walton)

  • Growth of ‘dry goods’ trade – co-ops weak in this

  • Rise of multiples – more capital (public companies) – relocation of stores – town centres and prime sites – began to win bigger market share

  • Problems for 1000 co-op retail societies in changing store sites, developing new larger stores – even though early lead in such innovations as self service

  • Co-operative Independent Commission 1956-58Need for society amalgamations; development of modern professional management; modernisation of stores; development society; idea of CWS becoming buyer for the movement – BUT NOT REALLY IMPLEMENTED

  • But – subsequent efforts at reform – Joint Reorganisation Committee 1965 and Regional Plan – Philip Thomas late 1960s – again though only partly effective

  • 1973 – Scottish crisis – merger of SCWS & CWS


The post war context the problems of the co operative movement 1945 1973 2

The post war context & the problems of the Co-operative Movement 1945-1973 (2)

  • 1960s – society amalgamations – but mainly because of growing difficulties – Regional societies & regional plan

  • Rise of CRS – increasingly friction & rivalry with CWS?

  • Declining market shares!

  • Regional societies – strong sense of independence from CWS – resulted in even more fragmented movement and less collaboration between regionals and CWS

  • CIS & Co-op Bank – little collaboration – Co-operative Permanent Building Society = became Nationwide and distanced itself from the movement

  • Acquisition of SCWS – CWS = became a major retailer – intensified competition with CRS & regional societies


The co operative movement the cws and the question of leadership and vision

The Co-operative Movement, the CWS and the question of leadership and vision

  • Common held perception of post war decline being in part due to a lack of vision and strong leadership

  • This view = most pointedly made by Leigh Sparks in his 1994 article in the Journal of Co-operative Studies. Sparks – only decent leader – Philip Thomas, an outside appointment to CEO whose career = cut short by plane crash in 1967.

  • Tendency by Sparks and others to see a lack of desire for reform, weak leadership, failure to identify the problem of the movement during a period of major retail change – exemplified by slow and partial implementation of CIC recommendations

  • Notion that 1940s/50s – little inclination towards serious reform – even 1944 failed merger attempt between SCWS and SWS = didn’t really address key issues (Birchall 1994)


Fred lambert vision leadership

Fred Lambert, vision & leadership

  • Lambert’s career = in many ways gives the lie to this negative assessment of the movement’s appreciation of its problems in this period & its capacity to see creative solutions

  • Argument here is that the reasons for the failure of the movement to reform itself successfully = not essentially one of leadership – but rather the consequence of longstanding divisions and structural dysfunctionalities within the movement which stymied a number of progressive reform initiatives which originated from within the movement as well as from external sources such as CIC.

  • Ultimately – it was the weakening of these divisions by protracted decline, successive mergers and a realisation that demise would be the inevitable result of failure to reform which made possible the success of reforms in the 19990s/2000s when earlier initiatives had failed.


Fred lambert who was he

Fred Lambert – who was he?

  • Joined CIS in 1927

  • Took BA Com at Manchester University in 1932

  • 1933 – joined CWS publicity dept worked with Percy Redfern

  • Worked on the first major independent enquiry into the British co-operative Movement – Carr Saunders – report in 1938.

  • Established Market Research dept for CWS – which he was to head until the late 1960s, when he became an economic planning officer for the organisation

  • Sir Arthur Sugden, CWS CEO in late 1960s: ‘There were, in fact, very few Co-op developments with which Fred was not involved,’

  • Retired 1970 – died 1990


Fred lambert on retirement in 1970

Fred Lambert on retirement in 1970


The impact of the war on the movement

The impact of the War on the Movement


Co op news 9 nov 1946

Co-op News 9 Nov 1946


Lambert reforming the movement ww2

Lambert & reforming the Movement – WW2

  • WW2 – co-op leaders = much more vision and desire for change to meet demands of post war world than claimed– initiatives from both within the CU and the CWS

  • Key objectives = outlined by R.A. Palmer, in speech to National Co-operative Managers Association in Manchester on 17 Sept 1941

  • Idea of DISTRICT SOCIETIES to which retail societies would affiliate as shareholders voluntary – aim -= emergence by evolution of 60 District societies – with stronger buying power; & with better relationship with CWS

  • CWS = actively promoted this – involved in promoting Federal or District Societies to run common services in Manchester, North Wales and Kent

  • Also – own body to explore post war reform – ‘Advisory Committee on Post War Problems’ from April 1942 – supportive of rationalise of societies, promotion of more centralised buying by CWS and groups of societies, and re arrangements for dry goods trade

  • Lambert – as Head of Market Research Bureau at heart of this – 1943 – his paper: “The Re-orientation of the CWS” - very influential in the development of the official CWS post-war strategy document: REPORT BY THE BOARD OF THE CWS ON ITS POLICY AND PROGRAMME FOR POST WAR DEVELOPMENT (1944)


Self service

Self Service


Lambert reforming the movement post ww2

Lambert & reforming the Movement post WW2

  • But – divided movement – resistance to reform from retail societies – still 1000 in 1950

  • Nonetheless – Lambert = maintained prominent role in promoting innovation – ‘Beefed up’ Market Research Bureau post war – articles in 1946 on importance of market research and the threat from the multiples.

  • Major driver behind spread of self service (in which movement had lead in 1950s) – 1951: ‘Self Service Shops: A Joint Report’ (written with J.Hough of CU)

  • 1956-58: Co-operative Independent Commission – Lambert & Hough = advisers to the CIC – Lambert = important ‘go between’ between the CIC and the CWS.

  • CWS – presented its own statement of proposed changes before commission sat – Lambert = important role in drafting this, and also in refining it. Lambert – knew likely resistance from retail societies – wanted piece meal approach to reform, to persuade retail societies to accept more amalgamation, centralised stores for dry goods controlled by CWS – LAMBERT WORKED ASSIDUOUSLY FOR A CLEAR CWS LINE.


The co operative independent commission

The Co-operative Independent Commission


Facelifts

Facelifts…


A rare successful cws dry goods venture

A rare successful CWS dry goods venture…


Lambert the cic after

Lambert, the CIC & after

  • BUT – CWS = divided – (Majority & Minority report) – limited influence over CIC

  • CIC report 1958 – largely unimplemented

  • But Lambert – continued to press for reform of movement – WITH CWS TAKING LEADING ROLE

  • 1963 – ‘The Role of the CWS’ – set out ne wplans for reform of CWS and movement. Main points:

    - Regional CWS warehouses – to ease CWS into buying role for the movement

    - Saw this as essential – amalgamated societies, argued Lambert, =likely to become more independent of CWS – cut their own deals with wholesalers and manufacturers

    - argument for closer collaborative relationships between CWS &Retail societies & other national bodies

    Influence over Joint Reorganisation Report of 1965, Operation Facelift & Regional Plan of late 60s.


Significance of lambert s career

Significance of Lambert’s career

  • Notion of lack of vision & leadership – gross over-simplification – or just plain wrong!

  • Within CWS – from 1940s – there were those who anticipated the severe problems the movement would face post-war; & they did work hard to address them

  • Problem = not a lack of leadership – but rather strength of desire for local autonomy – impossible for leaders to win the argument!

  • In long run – reform = ultimately only successful from 1990s, when the need for reform = underlined by the imminent prospect of the demise of the CWS and the movement generally.


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