A record 17.5 million people are members of the UK's co-operatives, an increase of 2.3 million in the past five years, a report has revealed.
The sector's 7,000 independent co-operative businesses are worth £34 billion a year, accounting for 223,000 jobs.
The increase stems from the rise in the number of people joining high street retailers and credit unions and new community-owned organisations across the country.
Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said: "The last five years have been tough for the economy as a whole, yet we have seen strong performance from the co-operative sector. Despite deeply competitive markets the sector as a whole has remained stable and co-operatives trading in retail and agriculture have grown by 10% over the last five years.
"Alongside this solid commercial performance, there has been a surge in the number of people who own and control the UK's co-operatives. With 17.5 million members owning everything from high street retailers to credit unions, the co-operative sector is the largest open membership organisation in the UK."