– from our General Manager on the state of the Co-op –
September marks the end of our fiscal year, and though the full review of our finances by our accountants will not be completed until January, we have a fairly good idea of where we are at. This year has been the most challenging year of my time as General Manager, not only because of the pandemic adding an operational strain on our workers that at times was overwhelming but also because of the financial uncertainty that it has brought. We are certainly not alone in this, as everyone in our community has had to adapt to an uncertain future.
A few areas of note:
- We were able to maintain sales growth over the previous year in spite of the disruption from the virus. We saw double-digit negative sales growth throughout the summer, yet ended the year up 0.6% over the 2019 fiscal year, due mostly to a huge spike in revenues in the early months of the pandemic (illustrated in weeks 10-12 in charts below).
- Customer count continues to be down considerably from last year, however average transaction (basket size) continues to be well above last year, due in part to our Shop for Me curbside pick-up program.
- Shop for Me average transactions continue to be in excess of $100, driving the storewide average above $40, which is nearly double what we have seen in the past five years.
- Our net income for the year will be in excess of $120,000, which is truly remarkable considering the obstacles we overcame in the past year. This success is due in part to the changes that we made to the discount structure in recent years combined with increased operational efficiency. Once the financials are finalized and the Board of Directors has a chance to review them they will make a determination on whether to issue a patronage dividend this year. If they decide to do so, a portion of the profits will go back to you as owners in proportion to your purchases this past year. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of every co-op worker and also to you as owners that we were able to maintain sales throughout the crisis and remain profitable. Thank you.
- Our cash balance at the end of the year is in the best position it has been in my history with the Belfast Co-op. Even without accounting for the Paycheck Protection Program loan that we accepted, we were able to increase our cash by close to $170,000. We have applied for forgiveness on our PPP loan and are awaiting word from our bank. As we look to future renovation or expansion, having sufficient capital reserves will be key to making a project affordable.
- To date, you have contributed over $15,000 to our Employee Appreciation fund! These funds are collected at the point of purchase and distributed to workers at the end of the month based on hours worked. For our part, the Co-op has increased worker benefits throughout the pandemic, including setting up an additional paid time off hour bank and covering 100% of base health care premiums. Thank you all for acknowledging the role that co-op workers play in continuing to keep this local economy healthy.
As we look to the future, there is little that I am certain of. Sales in October have continued to be strong and we are looking forward to the holidays, even if they are bound to be much stranger than past years. I submitted an annual budget to the Board in late September with the caveat that I will be submitting a revised version in April when I have a better idea of where the market is going. These are truly uncertain times, however, one thing I am certain of is that by coming together as a community we will prevail. Thank you all for continuing to support your community food co-op and I look forward to seeing you in the aisles.
Belfast Co-op General Manager