The 69th Annual General Meeting of the Bella Coola Consumers Co-operative was held at Lobelco Hall on November 22. With only 35 member-owners gathered, relatively low compared to the large membership of the association, the quorum requirements were met and members were able to review the annual financial report, vote on bylaws, elect a new board of directors, and to discuss plans for the future.
The Co-op has now completed it’s third year of independence, having separated from Federated Co-op Limited (FCL)in 2009.
“Financially, we’ve had the best year since 1998,” said Peter Fralick, President of the Board. “This is strictly the result of the hard work from everybody who works in the store. The dedication of all the staff have carried us through in a lot of areas where we weren’t performing as well before.”
According to the Manager’s Report, several staff members have willingly reduced hours of work, while others show up and work extra, unpaid hours every week. “These are the kind of people we have working for us,” said Fralick.
A particular nod of appreciation was directed at Peter Rauch, General Manager of the Co-op Food Store, whose efforts have greatly reduced operating expenses through the elimination of unprofitable product lines, while introducing new products and overseeing smart infrastructure investments.
Among these investments, the expense of night covers for the coolers and freezers have already paid for themselves in energy savings. Negotiations are underway with BC Hydro and Telus in an effort to reduce utility costs.
To further save on expenses, Co-op has acquired a new propane supplier, and purchased a commercial oven to handle smaller batches of baking, as opposed to the ‘walk-in’ oven, which used a large amount of propane. A new point of sale system is being installed, greatly reducing the number of hours spent on data entry.
A new security system is continuing to be installed reducing loss due to theft and decreasing insurance costs in the long run. Ongoing infrastructure projects are improving the buildings plumbing and heating systems, and bakery oven repairs. Spring will see outdoor jobs undertaken and the new bus shelter has already been installed.
The antiquated computers were no longer compatible with those used by suppliers, and with the new point of sale systems, Co-op will have the capability to advertise for local businesses. “Currently we are seeking businesses interested in advertising on our new Point of Sale screens,” said Rauch. “We are offering this advertising, for free, until the end of the year.”
In addressing the financial engagement review, Rauch stated, “We have a consistent ability to maintain our sales. The cost of sold goods is where we can save money, and where we can find our biggest improvements. Unfortunately, this sometimes means services or variety suffers, but at the end of the day it’s the bottom line that keeps the store open, and part of that is why we are close to actually making money this year.”
A motion was carried to continue doing a financial engagement review for the 2012-2013 statements. The biggest difference between auditing and financial reviews is simply cost. An audit can cost up to four times more, again helping reduce administration and operating costs.
Some vibrant discussions were made with regard to paying out estate equity claims. Members were reminded that while the Co-op is still technically in the red, Co-op is not obligated to pay out equity. However, in order to better facilitate the need to close estates for those members who are deceased, equity cheques have been issued in the past. A motion was carried to set a cap on total equity cheques issued for the 2013 fiscal year at $6000. This motion will be discussed again at the 2013 AGM.
“We have a great opportunity, with a lot of hard work, to get the store back into the black,” said Rauch. “In terms of the 1000 active members, each member generates, on average, $3000 in sales per year. That’s what it takes to keep this Co-op going. The $10 membership fee is not a lot, and, on a good discount day, you will save that amount, right in your grocery bag.”
Peter Fralick continued this dialogue by encouraging everyone in the community to continue supporting not only the Co-op, but all local businesses in the Valley. “In this tough economic climate, and declining consumer spending, our level of profits is still able to increase,” said Fralick. “Some people are unaware that the store can supply many items that we do not regularly carry, and many people are still going out of valley to purchase big ticket items. When one considers fuel, freight, and time, it’s a lot cheaper to get items through the Co-op, and one gets to deal with the warranty in-valley. All of this helps the bottom line.”
The Director’s Report cited an example from the 2010 flood, when residents purchased over 35 new furnaces. Hardly any came from local businesses, and none from the Co-op.
Patronage at businesses located in the Co-op “mall” continues to boost our local economy, and the Lease/Rental cheques are a most helpful source of income. The Library, in its first year in its new location, has helped to improve value, foot traffic, and the profile of the Co-op, with little financial exposure to the owners.
Election of a new Board of Directors was also on the agenda. Peter Fralick and Sandi MacLaurin were re-elected by acclamation and continue to sit as President and Vice President respectively. Marshall Hans Jr. was also re-elected by acclamation, while Duncan Morgan still has one year to complete in his term.
New appointees were Moira McIlwain and Simon-John Schopman, both of whom have agreed to sit on the board for a three-year term. There remains one seat vacant, however Charles Endicott will continue as an acting director in order to fill this vacancy in the short term.
Director appointments can be made at any time in the year and extend to next years AGM, members were encouraged to serve on the board they own. Continued interest has been expressed in getting younger people involved. Their unique perspectives may highly compliment the existing expertise given by the Board. For further information, members are encouraged to contact Peter Fralick or any member of the Board.