What were your first thoughts walking into the Co-op in June 2016?
I loved how “community strong” the store already was. We have almost 10,000 member/owners. In a town of 65,000+ people having such a large owner base is very exciting. While working on the floor I recognize so many people who are shopping and that is rewarding.
What’s different today?
As of now we have so much to celebrate. We are showing a 4.5% sales increase compared to last year, we have almost 2.8 million dollars in member/owner equity, our owner base has grown, and we currently have about 8,500 active owners. This means they are fully vested or active with yearly share commitment, and regularly shop at the store. I was also happy to see the increase in election participation of 15.4% using the hybrid system of paper and electronic ballots. This was a much stronger number than that of the last five years.
What were your biggest challenges?
For a retail establishment, it is crucial to have consistent fiscal year periods to measure year-over-year data. The fiscal year did not align in a way that allowed for comparison of previous shopping periods. We’ve since been able to fix that to better meet our business needs. Also, a year ago 90% of the managers and supervisors were new in their roles, which meant that they were learning an already established system. We also had hourly employees who had not received a wage increase in a long time. Now the opposite is true and everyone is really coming into their own.
What was your approach to those?
The special election truly fixed the fiscal year. This past year we were able to dedicate a lot of time training our new managers and give them the tools for success in their roles. We also rolled out the new living wage for all employees who make $15 with their benefits. We’ve also made shifts in our deli, especially to incorporate more vegetarian and vegan options. We were excited to be voted #1 for veggie options and #1 for natural foods and organic options in Yolo County. We also hope to offer side dishes and specialty pies as we head into the holiday season.
What was your most unexpected (and pleasant) surprise?
I was surprised with how open the team was to new changes. Any change is hard but this team had to change and adapt to so many new things all at once. They really embraced new ideas and procedures and stepped up. I love my team!
How do you see the Co-op’s place in the larger Davis community?
I really want the Co-op to become more of a community hub. I see kids playing in the new landscaping and that’s really fun. We’ve focused our produce department on more truly local produce. That helps to support the farmers in our own community.
What do you think are the next steps for the Co-op to grow?
I’m really looking forward to strategic planning with the Board. We spent this last year developing a strong business plan for operations and now we will have the opportunity to integrate this with a larger vision for the next 5 years. I also want us to look at how we interface with the UCD community in a bigger way to address food insecurity.
Anything you’d want to tell us that we didn’t ask?
Yes, I’m happy to announce that Whole Systems Design just accepted our bid offer and will be doing the landscaping around the whole building starting soon. The Co-op has had a lot of deferred maintenance and I’m happy to finally start working on things like the exterior and interior painting, fixing the parking lot, and working on resets in the store. Lastly, my kiddo is truly Co-op grown! This is my destination for so many things for him.