Folks, it’s proven to be an interesting winter here at the Co-op.
January and February are typically among our slowest months of the year. With both waistlines and credit card bills inflated by the holidays, consumers eat less, spend less and go into hibernation ‘til spring.
That didn’t happen this year. Our weekly sales in January and February averaged about $604,000, significantly higher than the $586,000 weekly average during the busy months of September and October.
What gives? Quite frankly, our Co-op is booming. Chestnut Hill store sales are increasing at a healthy 2.5 percent over prior year. Sales in our Mt. Airy store continue to defy all logic and reason, increasing by a remarkable 5.5 percent.
In Ambler, store sales are increasing at a stratospheric 16 percent, and it is now not uncommon to have trouble finding a space in what was only a year ago a largely empty parking lot. The Ambler store is now cash positive, and we have every reason to believe the growth trend will continue for at least the near term.
We can attribute our success to a variety of factors. Increasing awareness of the Weavers Way brand in Montgomery County, thanks to a multi-faceted, ongoing marketing campaign, has surely played an important part. So have our new market-based pricing strategy and our continued efforts to ensure our product offerings meet the unique needs of our members in each of our locations. And of course, the hard and excellent work of my colleagues on staff ensures a consistently strong customer experience (at least most of the time!).
Above all else, as a cooperative endeavor, Weavers Way’s success is the result of the commitment of you, our member-owners. Your support — through your engagement and patronage — is what sustains us as both a business and as a community project.
There are certainly more of us than ever before. We net about 75 new members a month, so we’re now only weeks away from reaching 10,000 member households. Keeping so many members engaged in the life of the Co-op isn’t easy, and through an expanded number of committees, increased workshops, new community partnerships and an evolving working member program, our membership staff is always working to develop new ways to ensure members feel a true sense of ownership.
Thanks to our overall improved business condition, over the last few months we’ve been able to make some important capital investments. In Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and the Saul farm market, we’ve upgraded our point-of-sale system, so we’re now using the same system in all locations that we installed in Ambler when we opened the store there in 2017. And in Ambler, we’ve installed a back-up generator that will allow us to continue operations in the event of a power failure, just like we have in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill.
With our success, we can now pivot to take on some priorities that have been simmering on the back burner.
Increasing our starting wage — currently $10.50 an hour — and rewarding exceptional performance with an accelerated raise structure will be part of our new fiscal year business plan. We must ensure the Co-op remains competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.
Another priority will be to implement a series of initiatives to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic packaging. From plastic water bottles to foam meat trays, there are tons of opportunities for improving our environmental footprint. Like “natural,” “organic,” and “local” — all of these were popular at the Co-op long before they went mainstream — we have the chance to become an industry leader when it comes to reducing our reliance on plastic containers.
All in all, I’m pleased to report that these are busy and exciting times here at Weavers Way. For those interested in diving deeper into the numbers, or learning more about our upcoming strategic priorities, I will be giving a mid-fiscal year business update at the General Membership Meeting on May 4 (for details, see page 1).
See you around the Co-op.