I want to start this month by thanking those who are running for the Board of Directors. Core to our identity as a cooperative is the principle of democratic member control, so it is important that we have engagement from our shareholders that enable us to have meaningful elections. We are happy to share that we have seven candidates for five open positions this year each of whom provides our shareholders with different skills and perspectives to choose from. More information about candidates is available HERE and voting is just a couple of weeks away. Our Annual Meeting is November 9, and I am excited to say that we already have over 130 shareholders registered to attend. Our total attendance last year was 160, and we are on track to exceed that number by a large margin. If you have not yet registered you can do so HERE. We look forward to seeing you!
As many of you know, in July we implemented an adjustment to our staff compensation based on the current labor market. This increase represents a significant investment for the BFC, and I am pleased to report that one benefit of this investment was a huge reduction in staff turnover. In the first quarter of fiscal 2022 (last year), 26 employees left the Brattleboro Food Co-op. This year, during the same time frame that number fell to 15. Last year the BFC had an attrition rate of over 60%, which is right about the national average. So far this year that number is running just over 35%. This is a huge reduction and well under similar businesses. On average it costs about $4,000 to hire, train, and onboard a new team member. This means that we saved about $44,000 on training and onboarding in the first quarter of this year when compared with the same expense last year. Additionally, by maintaining a full staff we have been able to provide more robust prepared foods offerings, re-open the salad bar, and have time to launch new products like sushi – all of which have resulted in better offerings for our shoppers and significant increases in sales. Increased sales also mean more dollars back to our local suppliers and increases in programs like Round up for Change that go to local non-profits. As you may also have noticed our Events, Education, and Community Coordinator has been very busy. Lisa continues to build a very full calendar of classes, in-store demos, and engagement with schools. In short, investing in people is good for our team, shareholders, business, and community.
Now that I think about it, I am not aware of any business that has failed solely because they invested in their people. On the other hand, there are plenty of businesses that fail because they do not evolve and adapt in the face of change. Big companies like Kodak, Nokia, Xerox, Blockbuster, MySpace, and grocery banners like A&P, Big Bear, Earth Fare, and Genuardi’s have been forced to close or sell to large chains. To ensure a thriving future, we are focused on building a Co-op team that is equipped to adapt and evolve to the challenges we face in 2022 and beyond. We have created several new roles designed to improve our shopping experience, grow sales, and increase patronage for our members. Our Safety and Security Manager is in place to ensure that store safety for both staff and shoppers is a top priority at all times. This role provides a wide array of support services – anything from safety audits to staff training on the administration of Narcan. We have hired a new Assistant Store Manager (Welcome Megan Sellarole!) to help provide some much-needed support to our Department Manager team who have frequently burned the candle at both ends to keep the store running. Our own Chris Dubis is taking on a new role as Merchandising Manager to lead category management, promotions, and pricing, and in-store merchandising. Chris brings great experience in this space, and we are confident he is up for the challenge. Yes, these roles cost money but like the investment in staff wages, they are strategic investments we are making to drive growth, reduce non-labor expenses, and ensure we are as ready as we can be for anything that comes our way. In the short term, we are coming off another great Stock Up Sale and are ready to go for a great holiday season. As you can tell we have a lot be excited about, all of which is possible because of your engagement. Thank you as always for your passionate support of the Brattleboro Food Co-op!
By Lee Bradford, General Manager