By: Matthew Stanley, General Manager
Happy New Year, Astoria Co+op members!
I am happy to announce that the co-op is celebrating its 50th anniversary as your community-owned grocery store this year! Throughout 2024, we’ll highlight our five decades as a local business with special events, anniversary apparel, local product collaborations, and more. Whether you are a founding member who volunteered at the co-op in 1974 or a member who recently joined the co-op, thank you for your support. Our co-op is the envy of many rural and non-urban communities who aspire to build a full-service, non-corporate, locally-owned grocery store. Our beautiful cooperative would not exist without the support of countless community members and shoppers who have dedicated their time, money, and good spirit to our endeavor.
As we recognize our accomplishments, we must also work to lay the foundation for our co-op’s next semicentennial. You may recall from my previous update that the co-op entered 2023 with the knowledge that our financial position was unsustainable and that work was needed to reverse a negative cash flow trend from operating losses in 2022. We worked hard to align our expenses with sales volume levels in 2023, and as we enter 2024, the co-op’s financial position is stable.
Co-op sales grew 2% in 2023, topping out just shy of $9.5 million. During the busy summer months, we proved that the co-op can generate meaningfully positive cash flow and earnings. Deep into the slower winter months, cash flow remains stable. Our operating revenues for the year ended at break even.
Various stakeholders in our co-op, including our co-op peers across the country, our lender, landlord, co-op preferred shares investors, the co-op board, co-op members, and co-op staff, all bring heightened scrutiny to our financial performance. We often think that co-ops and profit are antithetical. However, our business must achieve consistent, meaningful, positive income to meet these stakeholders’ needs. Financial strength is the foundation for pursuing future strategic priorities for our co-op. It will unleash further co-op potential for positive community impact and leadership on local food, sustainability, and health.
To reach our financial goals and beyond, we must continue to grow co-op sales. As a member or co-op fan, you can help by spreading positive word of mouth about shopping at the co-op. Encourage friends and family to sign up for co-op membership. And, of course, shopping at the co-op as your primary grocery store ensures we continue to develop and expand the reach of our vital community asset. Do you regularly use our weekly e-coupons? We email them every Tuesday night. You can sign up for our e-newsletter here. They’ve started catching on, so take advantage of these savings on your co-op shopping trips. Be sure to download the new Co+op Deals app too. Create shopping lists and stock up on the best deals on products with an additional 10% discount for co-op members.
Astoria Co+op is the grocery store we own with our friends and community members across the region. Let’s shop there and spread the word like we own it. With your support we can look forward to another 50 successful years for our co-op!
P.S. If you are a co-op investor, I’ll send an update when our financial audit is complete, likely by April.