A regional co-operative has become one of the first convenience store chains to be accredited as a full member of a British regulatory body.

Southern Co-op, which operates the ‘Welcome’ franchise offering across the south, has been awarded the Full Member status by the British Franchise Association.

The British Franchise Association (bfa), which is currently the only voluntary self-regulatory body for the UK franchise industry, strives to promote ethical franchising practice across the UK.

It also carries out a robust accreditation process for those applying to become members of the bfa and declines membership for companies that do not adhere to the criteria in place for ethical franchising.

Mike Fitton​, Franchise Business Manager at Southern Co-op, said: “Our franchise offering has undergone significant development since we first launched in 2007 and we have been going from strength to strength over the last few years since we launched a new operating system.

“We felt the time was right to apply to become a member of the British Franchise Association but it was not easy as there was strict and extensive criteria alongside proof of a sustained business model and the support we provide.

“It is because we have a good track record of success that we were successful in our application as full members. We are delighted with the news and will now continue to strive for further successes within our new and existing partnerships.”

If approved, members of the British Franchise Association can become a provisional listing, an associate member or a full member.

The bfa code of practice, which is followed by all members, is the only recognised code of practice for ethical franchising in the UK, and is based on the European Code of Ethical Franchising.

Southern Co-op currently partners with 22 franchisees that operate 37 stores from Devon to Kent and into central London.

Pip Wilkins, CEO of the bfa said: “Full Membership of the bfa recognises a franchisors commitment to, and value of, ethical franchising practices. Southern Co-op has undergone rigorous checks against an extensive set of criteria to become a member and is testament to their unwavering commitment to best practice and their long-term investment in ethical franchising.”

Southern Co-op’s franchise team offers retailers extensive personalised support with access to specialists in merchandising, artwork, planning, space & sales analysis.

As well as access to major brands and renowned Co-op own-label products, franchisees are also encouraged to expand a unique offering through supporting local producers.

To find out more about Southern Co-op’s franchise opportunities, visit www.thesouthernco-operative.co.uk/food/franchise/