Progress in the Face of Challenges

A Letter from the Co-op General Manager

To Our Community, 

Lost in the mire of COVID-19 news and speculative forecasting is the reality of the day-to-day challenges of running an essential business during a time of crisis and change. Over the past few weeks, states nationwide have made inroads into jump-starting their economies, with varying degrees of success. Each step backward carries the sense of progress lost. Each step forward carries risk.

Your cooperative continues to respond well and to show positive trends in many key areas despite the challenges of a constantly fluctuating retail landscape. Today I would like to take the opportunity to update you on where we are.

 

Measuring the Soul of the Business

For several weeks I have been reporting on our continuing discussions about measuring the soul of our business. To review, when summarizing who we are, we look at three broad areas: socially responsible, ecologically responsible, and community focused. 

The objective here, in a word, is transparency. The goal of these discussions is the development of scorecards—a way of creating transparent, measurable benchmarks that we can track and report on regularly.

This week my team and I looked more closely at our organization’s community focus. Specifically, we discussed our food-access and community-service programs, including Willing Hands donations, Listen and Haven food drives, Pennies for Change, Feed a Family, Stuff a Truck, Double Up Bucks, Food for All, and the Car Connections Program, to mention just a few examples. It is a long list, and my sense is that many members are unaware of all we do to support our community. In a way, this is a good thing. Our cooperative has always been altruistic in nature. The next step is to gather data so that we can create measurable targets we can track over time.

This week we also entered a new phase and focused more closely on our business units, beginning with our Service Center. Specifically, we talked about how we can differentiate our Service Centers and offer services and perks that people in our communities will not be able to find anywhere else. The ideas are innovative, progressive, and customer-focused, driven by how we can benefit the communities we serve. The next step is to conduct further market research to gain greater insight into what our customers are looking for. If you have thoughts or feedback, reach out to me anytime. I want to know what you think!

State of the Co-op

Finally, each month I meet with the Co-op Board of Directors and provide our directors with a report that gives a high-level snapshot of our business. I am a great believer in transparency, so I would like to also share this information with you:

  • For the year to date period ending June 30, consolidated basket size—the number of items sold in a single purchase—was greater than same period last year. Member and non-member basket sizes were also higher, and gross margins (sales minus cost of sales) were greater than the same period last year.
  • We continue to experience strong sales growth, led by Grocery, Meat, Produce, Dairy, and Frozen Foods. Our Prepared Foods Department, which is typically very strong for us, has suffered in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, but is steadily bouncing back. Members accounted for approximately 78.4% of sales during this period versus 77.1% for the same period last year.
  • Supply Line Recovery. The availability of critical products from our suppliers is improving. On a national level, fresh corn is suffering price fluctuations, though Co-op shoppers will see more consistent and reasonable pricing due to the availability of locally grown corn.
  • The local produce season has geared up, with nearly 40 items available from 13 growers.
  • We have modified our engagement efforts in response to member interest, shopping patterns, and social-distancing guidelines. Online classes and new kids programming launched with positive response.
  • Online Ordering. Groceries-2-Go continues to add 500 additional items weekly, for a total of nearly 3,000 items available in our Hanover and Lebanon locations and 1,300 items at the Co-op Market. Many of the items come from specific member product requests.

As I have told the board repeatedly, this sort of progress during such a difficult time does not happen by accident. These benchmarks for success can be directly tied to the strength of Co-op employees. They continue to serve our communities with grace and resiliency at a time when their communities have needed them most.

In closing, my thanks to all our members and shoppers for the ongoing support. Remember to be kind to one another and to yourselves. See you in our stores and at the curbside.

Onward and upward,

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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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