In the upcoming election our Owners will have an opportunity to elect new Board members and to approve a needed overhaul of our Bylaws. Some of these Bylaw changes have been simple, such as making our language match current California law. Others are a bit more complex - like creating an option to offer investment shares (see the February and April Board Blogs). Another important issue is moving oversight of the Co-op’s discount programs from the Bylaws (where they now reside) to the General Manager and her staff. This move will make our policy consistent with successful food co-ops nationwide. It does not reflect a plan to eliminate all discounts, but rather to bring our Co-op into responsible financial compliance by moving the decision making about discounts to the appropriate place.
So what might this look like, going forward?
Owners frequently state that part of their desire to join a co-op is to gain membership benefits. Tangible benefits enjoyed by our Owners include Owner-only specials, coupons, special order and case discounts, special Owner appreciation events, and of course – our outstanding store! Currently, we also offer an age-based discount at the register, regardless of the shopper’s financial need or membership status. Yet as co-ops strive to build ownership and patronage and to serve our communities, we look for ways to extend benefits to all. Our staff, board and advisors all would like to move toward Patronage Refunds issued annually, while still extending discounts to those shoppers who need them most. This is the accepted best practice among thriving co-ops in every field.
As one of the most respected US co-op consulting firms, Cooperative Development Services, puts it: “Patronage refund systems are superior to discount systems for long term sustainability.” Our job as the Board is to keep the Davis Food Co-op moving toward our stated Ends – and long-term financial sustainability is the prerequisite for all of those. Unless we’re here in the future, we can’t make a difference in the future! After much study and discussion, we’ve determined that moving discount policies out of our Bylaws and putting them under the control of our capable, wonderful General Manager will give our Co-op the right flexibility to adapt to a changing market. Please join us in voting “YES”!