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From the GM: A Look Back and a Look Forward PDF Print E-mail

by Sabine Rhyne, General Manager
February 2016

When the Co-op prepared to move into the new store in 2012, we anticipated fast growth, a new building that would not break down, and expanded opportunities to serve our community. What happened was that the economic downturn lingered, and more importantly, the conventional food industry began to go after the natural and organic market very aggressively. So, as a result, sales growth slowed, and our new building experienced more than a few growing pains. As our contractor partner had gone bankrupt prior to the end of the job, finishing punchlist items took literally years, and we adjusted to a new version of what we jokingly call “life in retail,” or a situation when few days were truly predictable.

Today, we find ourselves in a highly competitive marketplace, where we have to re-evaluate our systems and our organizational structure constantly to better serve our customers. As some of our staff have retired, we have done our best to reconfigure ourselves to support the areas of our business that are strong and to refine other areas to respond better to what our customers need.
We are looking at ways to better manage our inventory. We have had considerable turnover in buyers over the last year, and our systems are in need of some upgrades to better inform our buyers about what we have on the shelf and in the back room. We have reduced some expenditures for the near term while we work out the details of a slightly different organizational structure. In short, we are getting our house in order for the long-term, strategically positioning ourselves to better weather competition and economic shifts.

Change is hard. And yet, I know that we will always need to react to some unexpected force, some unpredictable catastrophe. So, we need to be efficient and thoughtful in how we go forward, because we simply can’t do things like we always have, just because. Our owners deserve the best, and deserve to know that our Co-op will be there for generations to come, growing strategically and carefully, protecting the investment of so many who have come before. With our hard-working staff, we will need to use all of the tools that we have at our disposal to achieve a balance of fantastic service and good operational practices.

We may not be as financially supportive for some of our partners as we’d like to be while we get our balance re-established. But we will be there for them soon, and we will be so much better able to offer the support to our community that we wish to offer, once we achieve our short-term goals.

I’ve been told recently that some of our shareholder members would like to be involved in our store in meaningful ways. Although only a few have the time to come to meetings or presentations, the desire to participate is still strong. So, please take the time to let me know your thoughts in whatever way suits you best. We are currently looking at our discount system and what potential changes we could make that would be more sustainable, more fair to all socioeconomic needs, while increasing the outreach impact we could have in our community.

Look for your board members when they table in the store; they too will be looking for your input and interaction.
Onward, to a healthy and productive 2016!

Sabine Rhyne
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