Greetings from the Co-op. Congratulations to Granite City Grocery, Barre’s community co-op. After years of preparation, the board is planning to make an exciting announcement about a future location at their annual meeting at the Barre Auditorium on May 29. You can find more information about the meeting and becoming a GCG member at granitecitygrocery.coop.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our shopper survey this past February and March. We were fortunate to have nearly 1,300 responses, and with 89% of respondents indicating they were Member-Owners, we heard from approximately 13% of all active members. Nearly half of respondents indicated they live in the 05602 zip code covering Montpelier and parts of East Montpelier, Middlesex, and Berlin and another 8% indicated 05641 (which includes Barre City and Barre Town).
Some of the key themes from what you said:
Shoppers give us Thumbs up
Survey respondents reported high levels of satisfaction with virtually all aspects of our Co-op in terms of store characteristics, products and service. In particular, shoppers liked the availability of natural and organic products, product quality, our knowledgeable staff, and our special order and returns. It was particularly gratifying to see that there have been big improvements in many of the areas where we rated lowest ten years ago, including responsiveness to feedback, our telephone systems and our website. When we asked, “How likely are you to recommend Hunger Mountain Cooperative to a friend or a colleague?”, more than nine in ten shoppers agreed or strongly agreed.
We heard you: prices at the Co-op are a concern. Only 43% of respondents said we are meeting their needs for prices well or very well. Although we have seen some improvement in this question over the past two years, there is no doubt that lower prices would help shoppers to enjoy our co-op even more. We want to offer more shopping value while maintaining balance with what we can provide to employees, local vendors and the business itself.
“I think the biggest issue is affordability. I am glad that the co-op is committed to paying fair pricers to farmers and distributors, and I think the co-op cares program is great, but there remains a significant number of people in our community who do not shop at the co-op because it is too expensive for them.”
Price concerns are not new and over the past few years, we have working hard to address offer more value across the store. We instituted our Co-op Basics program to offer more than 170 natural, organic and local staples at affordable prices everyday. Our member owner coupon and member only specials are popular ways for owners to save. Our twice-annual truckload sales allow all shoppers to save while buying in bulk quantities and more recently, we have been experimenting with short-duration flash sales to pass along the savings we are able to negotiate on your behalf. We’ll keep working to provide better values; please let us know what is and what isn’t working.
We always use the survey to help us answer questions that we need help with. Here are a few from this year’s survey:
• Some members have suggested we offer a meal kit service similar to Blue Apron or Home Chef. However only 1 in 20 respondents ever actually use such a service and less than 0.5% use one regularly.
• Nearly half of respondents indicated a preference for charging a fee for shopping bags in order to reduce usage. This is useful information and we await the outcome of pending legislation regarding carryout bags.
• There was not a clear consensus as to how to address parking and crowding challenges but a plurality of respondents (42%) indicated they prefer that the Co-op not change.
• Our Give Change program whereby members round up their charge to donate to local non-profits has been growing in popularity. We asked where you would like those donations to go and you told us that Vermont Foodbank, Montpelier Food Pantry and Central Vermont Humane Society are the top priorities. We will use your input to create the calendar for next year’s recipients.