A Letter from the Co-op General Manager
To Our Community,
Last night I met with the Co-op Board of Directors. During the meeting, I shared a monthly report that presents a high-level snapshot of our business. Today, as with prior months, I would like to share this information with you as well.
The Big Picture
In quick summary, the metrics we follow—total sales, items sold, gross margin, and basket size—continue to experience increases compared to pre-pandemic expectations. Although these metrics remain higher than pre-COVID levels, they have been leveling off the last several months.
Financials. For the year to date period ending October 31, the average shopper’s basket size—meaning the price paid for their food—was greater than the same period last year. Gross margins (sales minus cost of sales) were also greater than the same period last year.
Sales. Our strong overall sales growth has been led by Grocery, Meat, Produce, Dairy, and Frozen Foods. Members accounted for approximately 78.0% of sales during this period versus 76.5% for the same period last year.
Workforce Planning. The number of open and/or available positions remains higher than anticipated. The good news is that creative and innovative recruitment strategies have helped us to fill some key positions. We have also undertaken a very rigorous review of our workforce planning process and will be implementing several key enhancements as we plan for 2021.
Web Cart. We have added more items to Web Cart as members have requested, including fresh sliced deli products and bulk foods. We plan to build upon these two departments in the coming months. We are also exploring offering more products from our meat departments, including beef, pork, and lamb. We now offer over 8,300 items at our Hanover and Lebanon stores and 1,500 at the Community Market (CCM).
Gasoline. Savings from Operations from gas sales are positive and ahead of budget. This is in spite of the fact that gas sales nationwide continue to decline. On a year to date basis, we have pumped 242,122 fewer gallons at an average price of $0.36 less per gallon compared to the same period last year. DHMC still has roughly 1,100 workers who are telecommuting according to the Upper Valley Transportation Management Association.
Promotions. We are focusing on Groceries-2-Go, our touch-free online ordering system, and have launched holiday promotions.
Local. Local availability naturally goes down during the winter months. However, our offerings will remain relatively strong as a several of our growers store crops almost year round.
Safety. All locations continue to maintain daily COVID-19 protocols to ensure customers enjoy a clean and safe experience. With the recent increase in COVID cases in our communities, we are reviewing our policies to ensure we are up to date on current regulations.
Employee Bonuses. The Co-op paid a discretionary bonus to employees during the month. The bonus covered the period from June 3 through the end of August.
Discounts and Allowances. At the request of members, we changed our member-discount days from the 15th and 16th to any day of the month. Members have met the change with great enthusiasm. Discounts and allowances on a year to date basis total $1.56 million, up from $797,000 for the same period in 2019.
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. As a reminder, our stores will be closed and there will be no blog post from me next week. Also as we know, in this pandemic world we live in it will be difficult to spend the holiday with our loved ones and friends. This is a shame but at the end of the day we have a lot to be thankful for—our health. So from my family to yours, I want to wish you and your families a happy holiday.
And now for some comic relief. Next Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, I will be assisting my Front End colleagues bag at several of our stores. When I shop with my wife, she lets me get away with a lot when I bag for us. So, if you are one of the unlucky souls I end up bagging for, I beg you to be kind. LOL.