There is an old Slovak saying, gold without wisdom is but clay.

The same saying could be said to apply to the COOP Jednota, Slovakia’s largest domestic retail chain.

Through the control and oversight of its member base it has been able to expand through a growth strategy implemented in 1990 and followed through with the 2002 merger of COOP Centrum with the Slovak Union of Consumer Cooperatives. But at the same time it has focused on building its presence in the national market to control 20 per cent of the market with its retail presence in virtually every village, town and city in the nation, outweighing any other retailer.

Above all, its cooperative structure guarantees the integrity of its assets as well as there being no concern for these assets being misused or misappropriated. Equally, customers know that COOP Jednota undertakes to only sell products that are not harmful to humans.

Behind the Coop Jednota tradition is a national tradition. Slovakia has a proud cooperative history. It was home to the first cooperative in mainland Europe. Spolok gazdovský was founded in 1845, a farmers’ association. This proud tradition survived in spite of efforts to nationalise the cooperative movement in 1948. And it survived and flourished following the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Today COOP Jednota continues to make its mark in European cooperative history. In 2010 it won an international award for the IT solution aimed at the integration of its commercial, economic and educational activities including its customer loyalty scheme, sales evaluation analysis and electronic contracts register into a single web portal. The key was in the portal being able to be accessed by all authorised users from product suppliers to consumer cooperatives and won it the European IT Excellence Awards 2010 for the category “European Independent Software Vendors (IsVS) – Enterprise Application”.

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