“The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind. I love the bicycle. I always have. I can think of no sincere, decent human being, male or female, young or old, saint or sinner, who can resist the bicycle.”  William Saroyan

This quote from the Pulitzer Prize winning, Californian novelist is proudly displayed by the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op. For the seven self-proclaimed “hippies” who set up the cooperative as a bicycle repair outfit in 1977, the bike is paramount. But so are the cooperative values on which the business was founded. While the cooperative model suited their politics, it’s also turned out that the model couldn’t work better for the business.

Most employees of this worker cooperative become members after a one year period. The cooperative members – who now total 135 – believe that having ownership means a better experience for the customer. As Jeremy Miles, the managing director, explains: “ One of the challenges of being in retail is delivering a quality experience to your customer in all aspects. In order to do this effectively you must ensure that your customer facing staff are heavily engaged with your business.” “Many retailers struggle with this as they tend to pay minimum wage and provide a fairly uninteresting working environment and so turn staff over very regularly,” he says. “As a co-operative, we are able to put an owner in front of the customer in most instances and this makes it much more likely that they are speaking to someone who has a deeply invested interest in making sure their experience is a positive one.” And some experience it is. The Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op’s original shopfront in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh has the widest selection of bicycles in Scotland. It has expanded its shopfronts – and its philosophy – to the north in Aberdeen and four stores scattered through England.

IYC Yearbook feature: https://ica.coop/en/iycbook