Fall is always a little bit of a restart in our industry—summer sales tail off a bit as people begin to get ready for fall routines, and the gathering of energy builds toward the crescendo of harvest festivals, foliage, Indigenous People’s Day weekend, and, of course, the holidays. But this year is different.
As we planned our year, we had really no idea what to expect. We thought that probably sales would be very soft, and that we would wait and see and revise our projections after we were a few weeks into our new fiscal year (which starts roughly in early July). Well, so far, we’ve been pleasantly surprised. Sales have exceeded our expectations, ever so slightly, and we are beginning to prepare for the holiday ramp-up in the midst of the COVID store environment. As you can imagine, we are thinking of ways to manage in-store traffic, and we will be communicating with you as we get a little clearer about how to do that. You can expect more online options, different ways to plan and stock up on holiday favorites, and some ways to think about preparing special meals for fewer people.
And, of course, we are working on the integration of Dottie’s into our main store. We are drawing on some plans and thinking about both Dottie’s and the Bulk department’s next iteration. You may be excited to know that we will be reintroducing some gravity bins in certain areas of the Bulk department, with specific guidelines about how to use them safely. We are thinking about expanding our value lines throughout the grocery aisles, while still offering the same high-quality gourmet and local artisan choices. We are continuing to work on expanding the programs in our Deli; be sure to check in over there. Lots of changes afoot!
And our driveway paver project has been delayed into late September, which you will hear more about elsewhere in this edition, online, and in the store. Still, once that work is completed, we will all breathe easier as we roll our carts over the driveway. We will also be re-orienting the parking places to be angled, supporting the one-way loop of the rest of our lot, and hopefully reducing the number of near-misses, or not-quite-misses, of recent years. Some of you will be very excited about this development.
A final word on finances: when I have seen you in the store, some of you have asked about our Co-op’s health. We’ll be talking lots more about this in the Annual Report and at the first ever online BFC Annual Meeting in November (save the date: Wednesday, November 11 in the early evening!), but the skinny is that we had a very strong fiscal year for three quarters, and then had a very difficult fourth quarter (April through June), where we lost nearly $100,000. But we ended up on the black side of the ledger—just barely, pending our auditors’ review. That has been a huge relief. Going forward, we will continue to be cautious and strategic in order to provide the goods our community needs while maintaining safe, though inspiring, trips to the store. We will be in touch as we roll out some of these ideas: read your e-newsletters and BFC social media posts. We’ll be supporting you in a different way to move through this fall and early winter, always providing the Co-op difference!
So, yes, I think that things are indeed looking up, if only a little. It seems many of us are getting better at adapting and at reaching out, kindly and supportively, to those who are struggling. Any given day, we might be on one side of that or the other. But with cooperation and thoughtfulness about our neighbors, we will certainly get through this.
I look forward to seeing you (your eyes above your mask, I mean) in the aisles!
By Sabine Rhyne, General Manager