What are the typical profit margins in the grocery industry? Have grocery stores been crippled or bolstered by the pandemic? How are cooperatives run differently than other grocery chains?
As a first time Three Rivers Market board member, without experience in the grocery industry, I must admit I had not previously thought about the answers to these questions. I have simply enjoyed the shopping experiences I have had at Three Rivers Market for the last decade, while sensing there is something different about how it is run, and that there are values I align with being expressed through its operation.
A compulsory part of being a Three Rivers Market is undergoing tailored training, including an introduction to board governance and the democratic policies of cooperatives, as well as a financial crash course that, though geared toward the grocery industry, has fortified for me what it means to be a viable business fulfilling a mission.
Though financial training may sound dry on the surface, it has been engaging, and has inspired me to view the fiduciary oversight of the cooperative as a key to continuing to serve the community through innovative programs like Nourishing Change and Local Partners, and through creating and maintaining access for consumers to locally sourced, high quality products.
Understanding that loyal patronage equals investment in Three Rivers Market, and is a key to a cooperative’s longevity, makes the success of our little market all the more impressive. In a climate of significant competition from national chains, in an industry with an average of merely 1 penny profit from every 1 dollar earned, it is heartening to know that it is possible for a grocer with elevated standards for vendors, employees, and it’s patrons, to survive and thrive. Perhaps, if you are a member/owner, you recently received your dividend notice, and are enjoying the perks of investing in your cooperative, above and beyond your routine shopping experiences – evidence of the appeal of a well executed cooperative model.
The pandemic has posed challenges in supply chain, operations, and has required new pathways for consumer access (think: online ordering and curbside pickup or delivery) which make it hard for smaller markets to compete. But at Three Rivers Market, we can see how it remains possible for us to take ownership: through board governance, through high ethical standards, and through choosing where to spend our dollars.
At least I can see it now more clearly, thanks to the investment my cooperative has made in me through access to this education. I am grateful and ready to serve through my board leadership role for the upcoming term.
Kimberly Lomonaco, Director
Three Rivers Market Board