Looking Ahead to 2021

A Letter from the Co-op General Manager

To Our Community,

At this writing, I am working with my team to put the finishing touches on the first draft of the 2021 business plan, which we will share with the Co-op board of directors later this month. This gives the board an opportunity to look at the plan in detail over the next several weeks, give input, and ask questions. Our teams will then make any necessary revisions and share a final version of the revised plan with the board in December.

Our employees’ focus and hard work helped the process go smoothly this year. I know reports of this nature can seem tedious.

In truth, the business plan is a very rewarding document to work on as it lays out our thoughts for the future, especially when you look back at all the obstacles our teams have overcome.

Clearly this year has been dominated by one overriding theme: the pandemic. Beginning in mid-March, businesses nationwide were hampered by broken supply chains, rising prices for finished goods, a dramatic decline in foot traffic, a scarcity of employees, and a cash crunch of mammoth proportions. At the Co-op, our best laid plans were put on hold while our teams completely changed their priorities. Overnight we were installing Plexiglas, implementing aggressive social-distancing policies, sharing daily updates with employees and shoppers, and implementing touch-free shopping through online ordering and curbside pickup, just to name a few important initiatives.

It has been humbling to look back on this strange, surreal year and document the amazing response of our teams. For the most part, our members and shoppers have been patient and supportive through it all, responding with appreciation and loyalty.

I have written repeatedly about where this leaves us now, but the facts bear repeating. As we come to the end of the year, we have a business that is strong and robust in spite of all of the unexpected challenges.

This brings us to the year ahead. Though certainly we expect the pandemic to be with us for quite some time, the world continues to turn, and it is exciting to look at 2021 and think about something other than masks.

I am happy to report that ambitious, creative, employee-driven and customer-focused ideas are in the works for many areas of our business.

Just a few of these ideas include implementing new promotional strategies, enhancing the customer experience in stores and online, extending case savings to our shoppers, focusing on the Service Centers and Co-op Kitchen as key differentiators, realizing more of the benefits of our investments in technology and infrastructure, and expanding Groceries-2-Go, our online ordering and curbside pickup program. This quick summary is literally the tip of the iceberg.

None of this will be easy of course. We have hard work ahead of us. The pandemic boosted this year’s sales in excess of what had been budgeted. While our business units are budgeting for higher sales in 2021, it is not prudent to expect a repeat performance of the growth we experienced this year. In addition, we have the ongoing costs associated with COVID-19 to contend with, rising healthcare costs, and the challenge of finding qualified candidates who want to work in a retail store in the current environment.

That said, I am very proud of the work our teams have done to put us where we are today. Clearly this progress has been made possible because of the loyalty of our shoppers and the focus, hard work, and professionalism of our employees. So today I wanted to give you a brief overview and thank all of you for your support. I will continue to update you as we move forward.

Thank you to our community and as always, I welcome any comments and questions. Please reach out to me anytime. In the meantime, remember to be kind to one another and to yourselves, and we will see you in our stores and at the curbside.

Onward and upward,

Thanks,

Paul

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Paul Guidone

Paul Guidone

Paul Guidone, CFA, spent the better part of four decades in the investment management business here and abroad. He held positions ranging from analyst through Deputy Chairman and Group CEO, at organizations such as Citigroup (US) and The HSBC Group (London and Hong Kong). He joined the Co-op in 2016 as the CFO and in 2018 became Strategic Advisor to the General Manager. Paul was appointed General Manager by the Co-op Board in September 2020. To contact, email PGuidone@coopfoodstore.com.
Paul Guidone

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