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GM Report: A Welcoming Community Marketplace PDF Print E-mail

by Sabine Rhyne

An important “Ends” policy that we strive for is the one that pushes us towards “a welcoming community marketplace.”

We’ve been working very hard at being super-helpful to customers in the aisles and beyond, an important part of being welcoming.

We’ve had good feedback from you about this, so we think our customer engagement program is improving. Thanks for the love!

And in that welcoming vein, we also have worked hard at increasing the affordability of our Co-op through multiple means.

We regularly do our price comparisons with other local markets, and we have worked very hard at our product mix to ensure good value in every category.

For instance, we are preparing to do business with a new conventional grocery distributor, Associated Grocers of New England, a cooperative of member stores like ourselves—along with the Putney Co-op, the Monadnock Co-op, and other independent grocers throughout the northeast.

This distributor offers a private label called “Shur-Fine,” which will be replacing the “Best Yet” label in the aisles.

We will be able to offer more conventional products from this label as well, which many of our customers have been seeking, including some low-cost, unadulterated foods. 

We have also brought in an ever-increasing array of Field Day products, a controlled label through our National Cooperative Grocers, an organic low-cost grocery line that has provided the foundation for our Co-op Basics program, our everyday-low-price items throughout the store.

Our bulk and fresh departments have climbed aboard the Co-op Basics bandwagon with a fairly large selection of staple items at low margins, of which you have no doubt already taken advantage.

We are now in our third year of the healthy Food for All Program, where those of us on assistance such as EBT or Three Squares, WIC, or SSI are eligible for a 10% discount every day, as a shareholder member in good standing.

We continue to offer our Pennywise Pantry program, to inform customers about the best values throughout the store, demystifying bulk, and providing nutritional tips when needed.

Speaking of affordability, this Food for All program brings up the relevance of senior discounts.

As owners, we try to keep you in the loop as far as Co-op finances. So, last quarter, we gave away $56,000 in senior discounts, and $14,000 in Food for All discounts.

When I raised the senior discount issue nine months ago, I heard lots of folks worrying about our attention to this program.

We continue to believe that some of you who are currently enjoying your senior discounts as shareholders on Tuesdays and Thursdays might instead enjoy a working shareholder discount of 8% every day of the week.

This would avoid some of the challenges of navigating the preponderance of shoppers in the parking lot on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and you could get involved with some of our programs for that working discount such as reading stories at Kids Playce, helping with kids’ cooking classes, weeding or watering in the gardens in the Co-op lot, or even bagging chocolate chips.

If a few of you made this adjustment, we would be able to support more folks on the Food for All program. We suspect that the numbers of people in our community needing assistance will continue to increase, and we would like to be able to serve them.

Consider this, and if you feel that this change would be sustainable for you, please stop by Shareholder Services to make this change in your status. If this is not possible for you, that’s fine. I would simply ask that you think it through.

And, while I am on the subject of those small amounts that do ultimately add up, let me remind you of the option of purchasing a gift card to use for your purchases at the Co-op.

Last quarter, we were charged $55,000 in credit/debit card fees.

If you purchase a gift card with your credit/debit card, we still get charged a percentage, but only once do we get charged a fee. While you continue to apply your purchases to your Co-op gift card, no additional fees apply.

f you write a check for that gift card, no fees or percentages apply whatsoever, so that is by far the best option.

And if you lose your gift card, as a shareholder, we can replace it in the amount that was on it when you lost it. So again, consider this gift card purchase option; these thousand cuts really do add up for our business.

Finally, although it may be bewildering for a few trips, we will be doing a center store reset later this summer. This means we will be switching up some aisles and sections within those aisles.

The ultimate reason is to make shopping a little easier and more intuitive. Of course, when this happens, it may not strike you as an improvement at first, as it is sometimes difficult to adjust to change… but we will do our best to help you find whatever you seek, and over time, hopefully you will agree with the decisions that we make about proper locations.

Thank you for your invaluable feedback, and thank you, as always, for shopping at our Co-op.