A Letter from the Co-op General Manager
To Our Community,
Today I would like to expand on a topic I have been writing about regularly since last fall: the Co-op’s 2021 business plan and operating budget. My goal today is to highlight some initiatives from our Business Unit Operations, then continue with Cooperative Engagement, Public Affairs, Finance, and Administration next Thursday.
Remember the goal of this process is transparency and generating discussion. So with that in mind, if you have thoughts or questions, reach out to me anytime. I would love to hear from you. And as always, I would like to thank all of the members of my team for contributing to the following reports and updates.
Business Unit Operations
First and foremost, our focus for 2021 will remain on providing a clean and safe environment for both employees and shoppers, with a particular emphasis on food safety.
Nothing is more important than preserving the health of our communities and building on the trust we have worked hard to establish as a cooperative.
Equipment and Technology
Over the past few years we have made significant investments in technology, all designed to enhance and expand the services we are able to provide. That certainly paid off last year, when we were able to launch curbside pickup and touch-free shopping in record time. For 2021, we will build on this to create more operational efficiencies and enhance the customer experience.
Refrigeration units should be upgraded every 10-15 years, yet many pieces of equipment in Lebanon remain in place from when the store opened in 1997. An investment in equipment will enhance the shopping experience for customers by expanding product offerings within the same footprint and highlight products through better lighting and display capabilities. The process of analyzing the upgrading of this infrastructure has begun, and we expect the work to commence this spring.
We will look to upgrade our technology systems to allow for centralized scheduling and improve communications both internally and with customers. Specifically, we envision appointment requests and reminders that can be done electronically and communications with customers that can occur via email, phone, or text.
Food Programs and Menu Development
Building and improving our Co-op-branded fresh foods program is of significant importance. We intend to focus on several areas, including ingredient sourcing, appearance and quality, seasonal menu planning, research & development, retail pricing and margins, and improving database integrity.
We plan to build on our commitment to local and increase both our product selection and sales of current products. We will also look to integrate these and other local grower/producer relationships with our Prepared Foods programs. Finally, we will develop a written policy that defines what a local product is at the Co-op. This is important considering the growing use of “local” as an intentionally vague and poorly defined marketing tool by our competitors. On January 1, 2021, Vermont issued its own definition of what “local” means and of course this will factor into our policy.
As always, my thanks to all of our members and shoppers for the ongoing support. Look for more details on our 2021 business plan next Thursday. In the meantime, remember to be kind to one another and to yourselves, and we look forward to serving you in our stores and at the curbside.
Onward and upward,