Small-scale industry commodity and service cooperatives

Cooperatives organize large parts of the trades and retail industry and also the liberal professions in Germany, and operate in more than 45 sectors. As almost all markets are marked by a high level of concentration, the economic activities of coopera-tives play an important role for both their members and the viability of small and medium-sized businesses, ensuring competition throughout Germany in the process.

The philosophy of cooperation reflects the determination of small and medium-sized enterprises to survive in the face of increasingly powerful competition from large corporations.

This general principle is still valid today. Small-scale industry cooperatives enhance the competetiveness of their members – retailers, traders and members of liberal professions. Cooperation is facilitated by combining creativity with business community strength.

This ensures that entrepreneurs remain flexible, independent and self-determined while, at the same time, cooperatives offer support, stability and strength. A scientific study of the federation has clearly demonstrated that: cooperating companies have a lower risk of insolvency than loners. Members of cooperatives acquire know-how and network benefits through the modern concepts of central cooperation and benefit from the important competitive advantages this creates.

Small-scale industry cooperatives present themselves as highly-complex innovative linkup groups with many international activities. Besides selling products in line with market demands, they offer the entire range of business administration and corporate policy consultancy, including the opening-up of new markets across the world, the application of new information and communi-cations systems, diverse marke-ting activities and also the provision of efficient logistics. Consultancy and advanced training programs complete the range of services they offer. In keeping with their business mission, small-scale industry cooperatives operate at local, regional, national and increasingly at the international level as well.

Regionally active cooperatives work together in central coope-ratives, while those operating nationwide are frequently involved in cooperation at the European level.

Fields of activity of small-scale industry cooperatives

Small-scale industry cooperatives mainly operate in the following sectors:

  • food and associated retail trade (e.g. EDEKA, REWE, tobacco products trade, special purchasing organizations for confectionery and beverages),
  • consumer goods retail trade (e.g. domestic appliances, home electronics, shoes, sports articles, pharmacies, chemists, textiles),
  • food-producing trades (e.g. bakers, butchers) and
  • other trades (e.g. roofers, painters, interior decorators; plus hairdressers and shoemakers) and
  • services.
In addition, there are seven central cooperatives in Germany, two of which operate in the retail and five in the trade sector.

As an association of companies, DER MITTELSTANDSVERBUND - ZGV e. V. (SME Groups Germany) has the role of supporting its affiliated collaborations and of helping to create the best possible trading conditions for the link-up groups. The main aim of the federation’s policy is to balance out disadvantages faced by small and medium-sized enterprises in competition with larger companies.