June 19, 2019 at 10:39 am #6812Sarah KanabayKeymaster
Annual Meeting Feedback Questions for Operations 2019:
People with disabilities/sight/hearing/access: How do we improve these areas? Provide cheaters? Larger SKU numbers–highlight?
We appreciate this feedback from our members, as we work to be as inclusive as possible as an organization. We’re exploring options, including larger/different fonts, that we can use in the stores to address these concerns in an equitable way.
Streamline/improve Bulk items?
We conducted customer feedback surveys at both the organizational and individual store levels this past fiscal year, and have incorporated that feedback into our current bulk offerings. While we know it’s not possible to please everyone, all of the time, we’ve received consistently positive feedback about the Bulk departments at both stores, and work to be responsive to member requests as we’re able!
Less stocking of inventory at certain ‘busy’ times of the day, nighttime stocking? Maybe even member assisted and discount incentive given?
As a union shop, our contract works to reflect both the needs of the organization, and, the desires of the workers as represented by the bargaining unit. While we appreciate that it can be frustrating to be in a crowded aisle during a busy time of the day, it is detrimental to the financial health of the co-op to have empty shelves! Our busiest times are also when products are most in demand, and, because we’re in this together, we appreciate your support while we work to expand. We’re currently also limited in what we have in terms of backstock space, as we’ve really grown beyond our present physical location—this necessitates more regular stocking on the floor, because we have limited shelf space, and limited storage space. The quality of life for our staff members is also important to us as a cooperative–nighttime stocking isn’t currently something that we’re able to staff or support at the operational level. Stocking is additionally written into the job descriptions of several positions that are within our union contract, and as such, are not available as working member positions.
Employee  Classes: Mandatory, bring in outside experts, sales associates ability to not work when suffering a[n] experience—temporary as it is, sales associates are the first perceived aspect of the co-op
Human Resources has worked extensively to retool our staff training protocols and customer service training program to reflect our efforts to be an open and affirming workspace. This work was done in concert with recommendations from CDS and other cooperative training models, and is in the process of being implemented as we progress with new hires, and stabilize our front end staffing needs.
Section for ‘close’ to ‘out-of-date’ goods at reduced cost?
Departments all feature regular ‘close-out’ sale items or manager’s specials as appropriate—keep an eye out for those shelf tags! Due to space constraints, we’re unable to allocate a specific store area for all of these items at this time. Currently, food items unable to be repurposed in either the deli or the bakery (slightly bruised fruit/produce), are donated to local food charities serving community members in need, as part of our cooperative mission to aid those in our communities that face food insecurity.
Grow backwards?? Can we??
We’re all familiar with the expression ‘you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube’, right? While we can appreciate our roots as a cooperative, what we can’t do is ‘grow backwards’. The National Cooperative Grocer’s Association motto is ‘stronger together’—and we believe that embracing that motto is part of what positive growth means for our organization. Our continued health as a cooperative, and our growing numbers, means: more financial stability and lower prices for our members, the ability to broaden our inclusivity as a cooperative to serve more of our community, and making sure that we’re living the value inscribed over our door: ‘Everyone Welcome’.
How does the co-op improve?
Communication, cooperation, and patience! Working in community with one another requires all of the above, and, as we receive feedback, we work to implement it in ways that benefit our members, our health as a business, and our community as a whole.
Is there a discount ‘push-back to co-op program implemented?
The discount program that was implemented this past year has been met with overwhelmingly positive feedback and support so far. We are in the process of examining the areas of constructive criticism regarding things like the flash sales, and, the opportunity for other areas of member discounts that might be explored. The redemption rate of the quarterly coupons has been incredibly high, and, we continue to work to make the monthly member only sale items reflect member feedback as we receive it.
Happy about diversity—wants to hear about it! (there were a number of questions regarding diversity—this is an answer that works to address member interest in what this means at our co-op)
We recently began a staff and board training series that’s a pilot program about diversity and inclusion at cooperatives, and, we are eager to share the outcome when it’s completed! The training that we’re undertaking as both staff and board members aims to address diversity beyond racial and economic diversity, and extends into diversity of thought/opinion, cultural diversity, etc. For additional information about diversity efforts in our hiring processes currently, we recommend reading the Annual Report available online in the Member Forum area, or, you can request a paper copy from our Outreach and Communications Manager (limited paper copies are available, as we’re always working to conserve paper!)
Structural/building concerns and questions:
Larger dining area?
Can building expansion go up?
Is catering in-house or sub-contracted (food delivery)?
Prettying up dining space “clean it up and expand”
Could basement be used for retail space?
Tour of building?
Expand to meet needs of community, more about which spaces are being considered?
As John Williams has noted in the last two Annual Meetings, we’re currently bursting at the seams in our present location! Substantial work has been done to utilize every piece of available space that we have, in terms of reconfiguring the sales floor, increasing production space in the basement, and making what we currently have work as well as it can, given the realities of the physical environment. At present, it is not financially feasible, or, feasible in terms of zoning/construction to expand upwards in the present store location. Expanding or increasing the current dining areas would mean losing valuable retail space on the floor—expansion of the store remains the best option, overall, to address all of these concerns, and, we are still exploring viable real estate options that meet our membership and operational criteria. Members are welcome to schedule a tour of the current location at any time–please contact our Outreach and Communications Manager, Sarah Kanabay, to set up a time for a tour! Currently, all of our catering is prepared in-house—our delivery service is sub-contracted out to a local business, Halo Couriers.
Who are we wholesaling to? Can candy bars be our brand? Can we look at lowering amt of out-of-season produce/selling in-season cookbooks
We currently wholesale to both Millstone Market and the Atlas Farm store, and are in the process of setting up additional potential wholesale relationships for our Bakery and PFD products. Our produce mix is a reflection of our commitment to our local suppliers, in balance with what our members want/expect/request—as the season progresses, our product mix reflects the growing availability of local items, which we prioritize, and at peak growing season, at least 80% of our produce department is locally sourced at any given time (and is typically higher). As we work to grow our general merchandise selection, we definitely welcome member/shopper requests for items like cookbooks!
Regarding multiple questions pertaining to staff wages/living wages:
The Co-op recently finalized negotiations with our Union for this year’s contract, and has implemented a multi-year wage increase rollout in keeping with recently passed state laws regarding minimum wage, and, in keeping with the scheduled wage increases specified in the contract. As we strive to remain viable as a fiscal entity, we also work to balance our commitment to providing a better-than-average living wage as defined by state standards for our staff members. We remain committed to, and, continue to feel that expansion remains our best option for the long term financial health of our cooperative, and, through it, our ability to remain competitive with wages for our staff. There’s been growing interest in what it might look like to transition our co-op to a hybrid model, as well—-worker/consumer-owned, as opposed to solely member-owned. Members curious about what this could mean financially, and, as relates to staff and the changing wage environment, should plan to attend the Member Participating Circle forum about this topic on June 19th, at 170 Main Street (please see announcement in the Summer New Beet, and, on our online Events Calendar!)November 3, 2019 at 10:14 am #7214Shauna LynnParticipant
Thanks for these answers John. Do you have a way to track how many people have accessed this page of the forum to read this? Is improving the use and impact of the online member forum a goal that staff could brainstorm and implement improvement for? Was an email sent out to notify members when this post went up? thanks John and Sarah for all you do.
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