Amazing Grains co-op members focus on lifting revenues in Grand Forks, N.D.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Amazing Grains natural food cooperative in downtown Grand Forks is calling on its members to help boost flagging sales. Co-op members vowed at a Monday night closed-door meeting to increase their patronage and promotion o...
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Amazing Grains natural food cooperative in downtown Grand Forks is calling on its members to help boost flagging sales .
Co-op members vowed at a Monday night closed-door meeting to increase their patronage and promotion of the business to keep it afloat after three years of deficit spending, said Dexter Perkins, chair of the Amazing Grains board of directors.
Perkins, whose wife, Betsy, now manages the co-op, said the recent meeting had the largest attendance he'd ever seen for the business.
"Everyone was absolutely enthusiastic," he said. "They were disappointed by some of the financial stuff, but they were heartened to hear there were ways to get past this."
A Nov. 17 letter sent to members, who pay a one-time fee of $100 to buy an ownership share of the business, announced the meeting at the East Grand Forks Public Library to discuss strategy in light of dwindling sales and "alarming" financial reports over the last two quarters of the fiscal year.
The co-op has been operating at a small loss for the last several years, the letter reads, but recent additions to the local market for natural foods have taken a "significantly larger" bite out of business. Beyond declining sales numbers, the letter states an Amazing Grains bookkeeper uncovered a substantial degree of employee theft thought to have gone on for at least six months.
Perkins said the matter involved a "substantial" amount of money and is one of the reasons for the co-op's financial difficulties. The matter is currently under police investigation, he said.
Though profits have been elusive, Perkins emphasized Amazing Grains was never at risk of shutting down right away and has both a strong debt-equity ratio and enough cash flow to cover its operating expenses.
Recent efforts to improve the fortunes of the co-op have largely targeted spending. Perkins said the business has reduced its staffing, pulled out of an office space in a building connected to the store and has discontinued unprofitable products and services.
At this point, he said the co-op has "done as much cost-cutting as we can do" and needs to expand its revenues. To do that, the business will rely on existing members to increase their spending at the store while encouraging their friends to join up and do the same.
"We had a lot of great ideas from membership of ways to get people in," Perkins said, listing promotions such as gift memberships, collaborations with local businesses and social media outreach. "What we're trying to do is create an identity for us that sets us apart."