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Strategic Alliances and Consolidations

New competition. Shrinking margins. Tighter supply. Rising labor costs. Saturated advertising. Poaching of great employees. Competing in the natural- foods market place is just plain hard. 

As the market’s “new normal” intensifies with the rush of conventional retail players and new competition into our traditional space, there has been increasing interest in exploring the strategy of Principle Six: cooperation among cooperatives.  

First Impressions and Long-lasting Relationships

Providing an unbeatable shopping experience is no longer optional for cooperatives—it is imperative. In the growing and increasingly competitive world of natural foods, cooperatives need to perform better than their competitors, especially in providing outstanding customer service. Customer service is one of the key areas where cooperatives can differentiate themselves from other natural-foods stores. 

Co-op’s Parking Lot Solar Reduces Energy Costs and Impacts

The use of energy-efficient, environmentally sensitive design has been a part of BriarPatch Co-op’s store on Sierra College Drive since its construction in 2006, when the co-op stepped up and built a LEED-certified “green” building. Located in Grass Valley, Calif., the co-op’s operations are humming, with a staff of 210 and a facility of 8,856 retail square feet supporting sales of $29.4 million in 2015.

Co-op Solar Energy in Cloudy Bellingham

The Pacific Northwest: home to towering trees, majestic mountains, beautiful islands…and a lot of cloudy days. In 2013, city-data.com ranked Bellingham, Wash., as the city of over 50,000 people in the lower 48 states with the lowest number of sunny days. On average, it is sunny roughly 35 percent of the year—a good indication of why there are so many direct flights from Bellingham to various Hawaiian islands in the winter months. 

Growing Leaders from Within

As co-ops evolve and expand and our industry continuously changes, it’s important that we have mechanisms in place that enable employees to see career pathways within our organizations. 

Opportunities to learn new things and grow within the organization are important for everyone on the co-op staff roster. If their training ends after 90 days, you probably have some less-than-satisfied employees. 

A Tale of Two Co-ops

East Aurora Community Market (East Aurora, N.Y.) and BisMan Community Food Co-op (Bismarck, N.D.) are startup co-ops to be proud of. They both opened in spring 2016, and they both have longtime project managers who are now in management positions. 

Like most startup organizers, Sheila Conboy in East Aurora and Heidi DeMars in Bismarck had no retail grocery experience before they became part of their co-op’s steering committee. Nevertheless, they led their co-ops to successful openings and have now taken important roles in their co-op’s operations. 

Flash! Bowers Fund and CCMA Love Affair Revealed

The Bowers Fund kicked off CCMA 2016 with an outdoor reception featuring lovely food and the Queen Mary Band, whose members all work at River Valley Co-op in nearby Northampton. There were reunions of all kinds, and you could hear the many happy greetings among cooperators who found each other after a year or more apart. Bowers Fund advisors momentarily silenced the crowd to remind them of the many scholarships given to help members attend the conference, adding to numerous grants to startup co-ops around the nation.

Thriving in a Disrupted Future

Under the theme, “Disrupting the Future,” over 400 cooperators met at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst on June 9–11 for the 60th annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference. Participants from across the country discussed critical strategic issues and explored “cooperative food and the next generation.” CCMA offers a diverse program for food co-ops and their close allies during three days of intense conversations, local tours, workshop presentations, keynote speakers, and awards—a kind of summit conference for the food co-op sector.