The research focuses on evaluating consumers Patronage of Consumer Cooperative Stores. A cross- sectional survey of two hundred (200) members of Consumer Cooperative was conducted to determine factors that influence consumers Patronage and also examine the level of patronage of consumer cooperative stores in Enugu State. A uniform set of structured questionnaire and interview were employed to collect data for the study.

The results show that sex, income level, education and availability are factors that influence patronage of consumer cooperative stores. More so, the result reveals that members of the consumer cooperative often patronize the consumer store. Consequently upon the findings, the researcher recommends that emphasis should be laid on cooperative education to equip members with the knowledge and skill about cooperative principles, management and business. More so, it will help to instill in members cooperative values, scale up their understanding and participation in cooperative business by organizing seminar, workshop, discussion group and meeting. Also staff-owned consumer cooperative stores should be established outside the working premises to attract none members to patronize the consumer store. More so enable them to compete with other retail outlets. Consumer cooperative should endeavour to employ staff for the consumer store instead of rotating it among themselves to avoid distraction. There is need for qualified manager and account officer for efficient management of the consumer cooperative store and record keeping. The cooperative should adopt the principle of patronage refund. Such policy promotes members loyalty thus increase the patronage of the consumer store.

Cooperative is a form of economic organization based on certain human values. The International Cooperative Alliance has defined cooperative as ‘an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise’.

According to Kattookaran (2002) cooperatives are service-oriented institution based on the principles of each for all and all for each. It is an organization of the people, by the people and for the people. The basic objective of the cooperative movement is to achieve the welfare of the members concerned and to protect them from exploitation. In developing countries, cooperatives have been assigned some important role as instrument of economic and social transformation. Cooperative aims to remedy the economic inequality and the evils of concentration of the weaker section by the strong.

Cooperative came as an aftermath of industrial revolution which took place in Britain as a reaction to the capitalist exploitation such as hike in price, profiteering, adulteration of goods, offering to the market goods with incorrect weight and measures. The first workable cooperative society was founded in England by the Rochdale pioneers group of weavers. The policy and organization they adopted later became the principle of cooperation. The principles of cooperation formulated by Rochdale pioneer were: democratic control, open membership, limited interest on capital, patronage divided, cash trading, sale of pure and unadulterated goods, education of members and political and religious neutrality. The London Congress (1934) and Vienna Congress (1966) of the International Cooperative Alliances have revised the principles of cooperative formulated by Rochdale pioneers. The ICA general assembly met in the occasion of ICA’s centennial congress in Manchester in September 1995 and approved the ICA 1995 principles which include; voluntary and open membership, democratic management and control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training and information, cooperation among cooperatives, concern for community, Uchendu (1998) noted.

The cooperatives have enlarged its activities in all spheres of human life namely production, distribution, housing, education and so on.

Since time immemorial, middlemen have been exploiting the consumers. It is the consumers who ultimately bear all the burden of the various middlemen who engaged in the distributive channel of trade. These middlemen also indulge in the variety malpractices such as underweight, adulteration, black marketing, hoarding and profiteering. As long as these nefarious activities of the middlemen are not checked, price line cannot be brought under control, Himachalam (1991). Under this situation, consumer cooperative was the only answer to protect the interest of the consumers as a whole.

Consumer cooperative is a business enterprise run by consumers who are members as well as owners of the business. According to Guelp (1993), Consumer cooperative is a cooperative business owned by its customers for their mutual benefit. The consumers of the goods and services which the business provides are often the individuals who provide the capital required for establishing the enterprises.

In the words of Igwe (1999), consumer cooperative provides unlimited opportunities for helping to solve consumers’ problems and improving the quality of their lives. Consumer cooperative is organization, which intends to support the economy of member household through the acquisition of merchandise from wholesalers for sales to members at a fair price, Igwe (2006) noted. In carrying out their commercial activities, they are consciously guided ethically by values such as honesty in business, sales of high quality goods and services, fair prices and advice to consumers so as to get the best possible decision for the satisfaction of their needs.

A consumer cooperative store is a voluntary organization of consumers, organized to obtain their requirements of consumer goods and services on the terms of greatest advantages to them Mathur (1991). Consumer cooperative stores also sell to non-members and the cost savings that result from their large-scale operation are onto members. According to Kattookaran (2002), consumer cooperatives are supposed to serve as the best custodian of the consumers by supplying quality products and services at reasonable price and in correct weight.

Consumer  cooperative  society  is  one  of  the  types  of  retail  outlets. According to Agbonifoh et al (1998), consumer cooperative societies are economic associations of consumers for the purposes of purchasing goods from manufacturers or wholesalers to a retailer to members of the cooperative who, by definition, are final consumers. Retailing is the process of selling goods directly to the ultimate consumers. A retailer is a specialized marketing functionary linking the wholesaler or the producer with the final consumer. As a specialist in selling to the final consumers, he buys the assortment of goods demanded by the consumers and makes them available to the consumers at convenient points from numerous sources. He convinces the consumer to buy, employs all the marketing variables at his disposal, Agbonifoh et al (1998).

According to , Agbonifoh et al (1998), retailing has evolved over the years as is evident in the different types of retailers and the different functions performed by them over time. Three theories have been advanced to explain the evolution of retail institutions. The theory of natural selection maintains that retail institution that adapts best to its environment will survive and grow. Another theory asserts that retailing institutions that pass through a life cycle begins with low margin, low price and minimum services. The next stage in the life cycle sees the retailer upgrading his facilities and offerings and adding more services in a bid to increase the volume of sales and hopefully profit.

According to Uchendu (1998), consumer cooperative store is a retail store that is put up by group of people who come together as a sociological group to pursue common objectives of:

Buying in large quantities to reduce unit cost.

Buying directly from producers to reduce the incidence of buying adulterated goods.

Enjoy other economies of scale associated with bulk purchases.

Consumer cooperative came as an aftermath of industrial revolution which took place in Britain as a reaction to the capitalist exploitation such as hike in price, profiteering, adulteration of goods, offering to the market goods with incorrect weight and measures. The first successful consumer cooperative was the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers.

In Nigeria, the establishment of consumer cooperative was prompted by the scarcity of consumer goods after the Second World War. It started as a village store with meager resources. People pull their resources and stocked consumer shop so that they can buy from the manufactures or importers at same price as their counterparts, the competitors.

Members derive a lot of benefits by joining a consumer cooperative society which urges them to patronize the consumer cooperative store. Some of the benefits according to Igwe (2006) are that the membership affords one the opportunity of buying goods at a very cheaper price. The cheapness of the goods helps the members to save money thereby contributing to improvement of the socio-economic status of members. The goods bought are free from adulteration, shortage of weights and measure and other bad practices in inherent in capitalist trade. The consumers are sure of getting what they bargained for at consumer store without fear. There is also regular payment of dividend to members in form of patronage to the consumer store, Chukwu (1990). Consumer cooperative protects members from being exploited by middlemen. The idea of cooperative is in the forefront of upholding this stand in the interest of the consumers.

More so, consumer cooperative makes goods available to consumers at all times which implies that consumers are sure of getting what they want at all times. The interests of consumers are highly protected.....

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