Warrnambool Co-operative Society Ltd. (The Co-op)

The Allansford Artificial breeders was commenced in 1960 As a business its main focus was on the improvement of local herds for local farmers. As a result of 32 district farmers meeting at the Allansford Mechanics Hall, the Allansford & District Artificial Breeders Co-operative Society was formed. The subscription for membership was £7 10s.

The meeting was instigated through the efforts of Noel Garner, a Hopkins Point farmer, who was manager of No.1 and No.2 Warrnambool Herd Testing Associations, and Gethan Fenton, a field officer with the Warrnambool Herd Testing Association.

Bill Quinlan, who had been a herd tester under Noel Garner’s management, became the first employee of the Artificial Breeders.

WCB support was available from the beginning as a room was provided behind the factory offices and the AI fees were collected by the factory from suppliers’ milk cheques. In the first 12 months Bill worked alone with some assistance from Russell Learmonth and Roger Walsh, both Kraft employees. Both factories realised the benefits of herd improvement in view of their overall increased production so membership was encouraged. Semen from the best sires in Canada and New Zealand were made available and farmers also could soon see the benefits.

The initial board of directors, unlike WCB beginnings, consisted entirely of farmers. These included Michael Melican (Wangoom), Gerald Mugavin (Wollaston), Noel Garner (Hopkins Point), Jim Halford (Naringal East) and Grant Warnock (Southern Cross).

Membership grew rapidly and after one year there were 164 members with another 100 joining the following year.

After a year of coping alone Bill was joined by Ray Eccles from Purnim and then Pat Gleeson, later a Warrnambool car dealer. John Fitzgerald became a part-time technician.  These signs were attached to the entrance gates of users.  In the mid 1970s it became known as the Warrnambool Co-operative and while it maintained a strong rural and farming focus a opened a retail store in Warrnambool in Timor Street in the 1970's which became the largest trading department store in the district. By the late 1990s they had 8000 members and employed 84 full time and 120 casual staff.  It met a sorry end in the 2000's.


Warrnambool Co-op to close doors

Posted 4 Dec 2007, 2:00pm

One of Warrnambool's major department and rural goods stores will close at the end of the year.

The Warrnambool Co-op, in south-west Victoria, moved into administration in October with a debt of more than $5 million.

A buyer was not found, despite a national advertising campaign.

Administrator James Stewart says the 60 remaining staff will get their full entitlements, and creditors will get all, or most, of the money owing to them.

Mr Stewart says he is particularly disappointed potential buyers turned down the opportunity to buy the rural store.

"They had their own reasons for not wanting to proceed ... you'd think in this market where there is a lot of money around, even in the drought there's still a lot of cash around, this is a substantial business with a substantial turnover, to actually not have people who are either willing or able to commit to a purchase is surprising and disappointing," he said.

The Warrnambool Mayor says there is probably little the council can do at this point to help the business and its employees.

David Atkinson says the loss of the co-op will leave a gap in the central business district trading environment.

"It will certainly have an impact. How great an impact that will be will remain to be seen, but generally speaking any loss of business to Warrnambool is not a good thing - it's certainly a blow to find a large business such as the co-op closing down," he said.

The co-op's chief executive, Steve Griffin, says the business failed because it lost sight of its core business that revolved around its farming and rural customers.

"The business had re-positioned over a period of time, in particular the department store, had come up in the market to sell much more expensive products," he said.

"I think with hindsight - and hindsight's a wonderful thing - it probably shouldn't have happened. Over time, the changes that the business made possible disenfranchised our core business customers."