By: Matt Stanley, General Manager
Hello Astoria Co+op Members!
I recently attended a meeting of our national cooperative where one of the topics centered around Cooperative Principle 5, which illustrates the importance of providing members with information that helps them contribute to developing their co-op. That inspired me to increase my communication and transparency with you! Every quarter moving forward, I will send out business updates to keep you informed of the current state of the co-op.
There are undoubtedly many positives to focus on at our co-op. We have a strong reputation, and our external reviews and customer surveys reflect immense love for Astoria Co+op. We recently won the Reader’s Choice Best Grocery Store and Best Customer Service awards. Our new Owners Save More program has resulted in record new member sign-ups – nearly 250 new members this year! We have a committed leadership team and Board of Directors, and a highly talented and engaged staff.
While we couldn’t have predicted a global pandemic, we did everything possible to mitigate its effects. We invested in the safety of our customers and staff. We provided hazard pay to staff (and ultimately made these increases permanent — our median hourly wage for non-salaried employees is $17.50, with generous benefits). We worked hard to keep the shelves stocked during supply shortages and welcomed many new shoppers to our community-owned store.
Although we continued to grow sales, we did not meet our sales projections in 2022 and are also behind the forecast for 2023. Recently, the federal support provided to help small businesses weather the pandemic ended, our rent has escalated per the terms of our lease, and many of our other expenses have increased due to high inflation. For the previous 18 months, we have steadily relied on cash reserves to meet our monthly obligations. We must reverse this course.
We’ve initiated a plan to reach financial sustainability, including improving operating systems, increasing productivity, and pausing discretionary spending. Although we maintained elevated staffing levels throughout the pandemic to manage isolation and quarantines, we are now working to balance our staffing size to sales volume while maintaining our high service standards. We continue to innovate around promotions that drive sales and customer excitement.
Engagement from our owners is another critical aspect of reaching our financial goals. How can you, our owners, help us on our path to financial sustainability and beyond? First and foremost, we need you to make the co-op your primary stop for groceries, spending your grocery budget at our store as much as possible. You can encourage your friends and family to support the only community-owned grocery store in the region. Stronger sales growth is a necessary component of our success. Every shop, whether small or large, will help. We could improve our financial position in an average week if our 4,100 weekly shoppers spent just $5 more with each visit!
Be sure to shop our Co+op Deals (with an extra 10% off for owners), Fresh Deals, and everyday low-price Co+op Basics. Take advantage of our weekly e-coupons (you can sign up for our e-newsletter here). And please let us know if you need something the co-op doesn’t carry.
Astoria Co+op is your co-op. As owners, you have helped build it into the fantastic place it is today. Together, we can ensure this vital community asset continues to thrive.
Thank you for supporting our local food co-op. I look forward to sharing more next quarter.