– from our General Manager on the state of the Co-op –
As May comes to a close we are at the end of another month of your Co-op surviving in unprecedented times. We continue to make adjustments to our operation to better serve and protect you as well as our workers. It has been so gratifying to see many of you either in the store or picking up your curbside order and I thank you for playing your part to keep all of us safe. In recent weeks more businesses in downtown Belfast have begun opening up as the state moves further into the stages of reopening the economy and we all have begun adjusting to the new normal.
A few areas of note:
- Customer counts have dropped significantly in the past ten weeks, plateauing at around a third of what they were during the same period last year. As we continue to restrict hours and the number of customers in the store at any given time we are approaching a ceiling of what revenues are possible during a workday.
- Our Shop for Me curbside pick-up program continues to meet a need in our community although participation in the program has begun to dwindle. We have begun to offer SFM on Sundays as a way to ease our staff back into the Co-op operating as a seven-days-a-week business. We are working on a number of ways to improve the efficiency of the program, including making the majority of our inventory available for SFM customers to view online. More on that in the coming weeks…
- The other side of the equation, average transaction or “basket size”, continues to follow the same pattern as previous weeks, however, it did take a small downturn this past week.
Overall sales in May are down close to 11% from last year. Though that is a significant decrease, I am cautiously confident that we can maintain our current operation and still finish out the fiscal year without suffering serious losses. The uncertainty of where this all is going and how it ends weighs heavily on all of us. I have provided the Board of Directors with a revised budget for the remainder of our fiscal year that lays out three possible scenarios: bad, worse, worst. We are monitoring the situation closely and I am revising my projections as things progress.
Thank you all for your continued support. To date, you have contributed over $5600 to our Employee Appreciation Fund, which is being distributed monthly to workers based upon hours worked. Your generosity, kind words of encouragement, and acknowledgment of our efforts means the world to us. Now more than ever we need to come together as a community to rebuild the local economy that has been broken by this crisis. For many of our neighboring businesses the next few weeks will be crucial to their survival, so please do whatever you can to safely support them as well. They need you, and we need them if our downtown is to continue to thrive in the years ahead.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not in some way acknowledge the situation unfolding in Minneapolis, MN. My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd, whose life was violently and unjustly taken by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. Outrage over the inaction of the police department to arrest the individuals involved has progressed in the days following his death from non-violent protests to rioting and looting. On Friday, May 29 the former officer directly responsible for Floyd’s death was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter though the other officers involved have yet to be charged.
Minneapolis is home to many of our sister co-ops, some of which have been damaged in the riots that have erupted in response to George Floyd’s death. And yet, these same co-ops are also leading the charge to help support and heal their communities through this crisis as well as the ongoing pandemic. I cannot fathom the pain and suffering their community is enduring in the midst of an already challenging time and we stand in cooperative solidarity with the people of Minneapolis in their call for justice.
Belfast Co-op General Manager