The formation of The Co-operative Group happened over 140 years (starting in the 1860’s) from the merger of many independent retail societies, and their wholesale societies and federations.

The North of England Co-operative Society was launched in 1863 by 300 individual co-ops across Yorkshire and Lancashire . By 1872, it had become known as the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS). The 20th century saw a series of smaller societies merge with CWS, including the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society (SCWS) in 1973 and the London-based South Suburban Co-operative Society in 1984.

CWS changed its name to Co-operative Group (CWS) Limited in 2001 following its merger with Co-operative Retail Services (CRS) in 2000. Another merger took place with Yorkshire and North West-based United Co-operatives in July 2007, which reinforced the Group’s position as the largest consumer co-operative in the world.