Peter Marks' vision of a unified co-operative movement received a boost this week after leading independent societies Midlands and Southern agreed to adopt The Co-operative fascia.

Both societies said the branding, launched by The Co-op Group in 2005 in an attempt to unify the movement, would strengthen their retail businesses.

"We are very excited about adopting the brand and see this as being at the heart of our plans for profitable growth as an independent society," said Mark Smith, CEO of Southern Co-op. "We have the opportunity to bring together the power of the national brand with the highest possible standards of local commercial operations and community engagement."

John Fitzgerald, CEO of Midlands Co-op, added: "The scale and spread of the branding, advertising and promotion in-store is such that it makes sense for us to be part of it."