The Long and Winding Road . . . to NCGA Membership
by Jolene Cook, General Manager, and Greta de Jong, Board Director
This financial quarter marked a major milestone in the GBCFC’s journey from its origins as a small buying club in a member’s garage to the profitable community-owned business and local food hub that it will ultimately become. After applying to join the National Cooperative Grocers’ Association (NCGA) three times, with a year-long transitional period as an associate member, achieving $2 million in annual sales, and raising $212,315 in 2013 to build cash reserves and meet capital requirements, our co-op was finally admitted to full membership in the organization in April of this year. As our general manager Jolene Cook proclaimed, in her email to the board of directors: “We got in, woohoo!”
Yes, woohoo!! That elated feeling is one that all member-owners can share, especially as we look forward to the benefits that full membership in the NCGA will bring to the GBCFC. The NCGA is a business services cooperative that unites 142 member co-ops in 38 states. Individually, small co-ops like ours find it hard to compete with the larger corporate grocery stores that dominate the market, because our sales volume doesn’t qualify us for the same kinds of discounts from wholesalers that national chains can negotiate. Joining forces with the other co-ops in the NCGA puts us in a much better position. Together, the NCGA’s member co-ops have combined annual sales of $1.6 billion, second in volume only to Whole Foods. It’s like being part of a national chain, but still being able to keep our identity and autonomy as a community-owned business.
Joining with our sister co-ops in the NCGA will enable the GBCFC to buy goods as a part of this much larger buying power, affording us the opportunity to increase our margins and reach profitability. Achieving those goals will, in turn, allow the Co-Op to return financial benefits to member-owners and help us fulfill our social mission.
Just like our co-op, the NCGA is democratically controlled, which means each member co-op has a vote and a voice in making decisions for the organization. This makes the GBCFC part of a national alliance that is working to enhance access to healthy food while strengthening local economies and communities. Member co-ops may also receive patronage distributions of any surplus funds, as determined by the NCGA’s board of directors.
We will be fully admitted to the NCGA as of September 1, 2014. For shoppers, this means there will be co-op specific deals on offer in the store across a wide range of national brands. Starting on September 1, these promotions will rotate every two weeks branded as “Co-op Deals.” We will also be mailing a coupon book to member-owners every September and March that will give you $5 off any purchase plus additional discounts on the products that we carry in store.
There will be a bit of a learning process as we figure out how to optimize our use of the NCGA’s “Co-op Deals” promotions. Be assured that we are committed to bringing you the best prices on everyday products that align best with our buying guidelines. Thanks for your patience as we navigate through this exciting new step in our evolution into a thriving cooperative business and local food hub.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the generous and dedicated support of our member-owners. Every shopping trip you make to the Co-Op, every membership equity payment, every member loan contribution, every hour of HOOing, and every time you say “I love the GBCFC” on Facebook, Twitter, or to random strangers on the street (and we know you do) helps to strengthen our co-op and ensure its success. THANK YOU!