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In October of 2013 we asked Co-op customers to fill out a survey online, in our store or at home, and to mail it in. To the many who did so: thank you for your input! Your responses really help us to know what you want us to improve and what you think we’re doing well.
This survey asked more questions about advocacy and education compared to our usual survey. These are important aspects of the Co-op, and we want to make sure we’re keeping you informed about what you want to be informed about so you can make educated choices.
Many reported enjoying taking classes. Co-op Services is in the process of hiring a new Education and Outreach Coordinator who will be specifically focused on developing curriculum for Owners and the community with a long-ranged planning approach. Over 30% of respondents requested a focus on avoiding GMOs, backyard homesteading, controversial ingredients, fair trade, home food preservation, organics, and sustainable farming. We will bear that in mind for education planning as we look ahead.
Respondents also like cooking demonstrations. Good news! We are currently revamping our Saturdays from Scratch educational demonstration program. The program was recently suspended to review the program’s successes. Once the East remodel is complete, both East and West locations will include live demo stations on the store floor for both staff and vendors to share their tips. When we bring back Saturdays from Scratch, you will enjoy seeing simple educational tips for specially featured ingredients as you shop. We are really looking forward to this upgrade!
\In-store brochures are also popular. In addition to the live demo stations added at both Willy East and Willy West, the Owner Resources areas are being revamped to include a more integrated area for our brochures. We are in the process of revising our popular Bulk Aisle Guide and Gluten-Free Shopping List, and we expect to give other brochures makeovers soon. We are also in the testing stages for offering an interactive touch-screen kiosk at Owner Resources that will first be introduced at Willy West, including class offerings, Board information, and produce information to start. We also plan to bring a touch-screen kiosk to Willy East after the pilot phase at Willy West proves successful.
We asked Owners what causes are most important for us to focus on. In order from most to least, respondents said sustainable farming (74%), environment and conservation (66%), food justice (43%), cooperative business development (30%), workers’ rights (26%), animal rights (23%), anti-discrimination advocacy (14%), and visual and performing arts (5%). We will use this information to help with our FY15 budget planning.
We asked Owners to review responsiveness to Customer Comments. We are pleased that many Owners are satisfied. Of the responses we received, on a scale of one to six, 54.5% felt that efforts were above average (between four and six on the six-point scale), with 29.36% giving the top rating. 38.6% did not rate Customer Comment satisfaction, either leaving the question blank, or saying that their response was “not applicable.” 6.89% felt responses were below average. Thank you for letting us know, we always strive to improve our customer service. In fiscal year 2015 (starting on June 30, 2014), we will be redeveloping the way we sort and archive Customer Comments, to improve our response time, and also use the Comments to be more proactive about Owner desires and trending needs.
Let me introduce myself. You may recognize me from my previous positions at the Co-op (first as Deli Manager at Willy East, and then Produce Manager at Willy West). Late last year, the Co-op began a transition into a new staffing structure, and I changed jobs again. I’m now filling a new position at Willy Street Co-op: Purchasing Director. In this role, I’m heading up a brand-new department that aims to improve and streamline how we manage product at all of our sites.
What does this mean for you? Probably the biggest request we heard in our annual survey was to bring prices down. Though we have always done our best to offer fair prices, I think we can all agree that local, organic, and ethically raised foods are more expensive than we wish they were. Much of this is a reflection of the actual cost of producing good food, and there’s not a lot we can do about that; however, our hope is that this new team of people dedicated to managing product will be able to work with our vendors to use the combined buying power of all our sites to bring costs down.
This is not a project that will bear fruit immediately, but I am hopeful that over time we’ll see an improvement on our pricing as a direct result of the work of our new Purchasing Team.
Another topic that came up in the survey is that Owners want to see more local food in our stores. This is good to hear, because it’s also one of my top priorities! Though I’m very proud of the local selection we already have, there’s no doubt we can do better.
In my experience, one of the best ways to get more local food in our stores is to create long term partnerships with farmers and producers, and that’s what we’re doing. A great example of this is Healthy Ridge Farm in Door County. Dan at Healthy Ridge grows peaches, cherries, strawberries, and other fruit crops. Not only is he providing us with delicious fruit now, but we’re partnering with him to ensure a great supply for years to come. This spring, we were able to offer Healthy Ridge a loan through our new Local Vendor Loan Fund. These funds will allow him to plant more fruit trees in anticipation of the increased demands of a possible third store. In this way we can guarantee the farmer a great source of income for years to come and also guarantee that our Owners will continue to have a source for incredible local fruit. It’s a win-win!
At Willy East, there are several things we’ve been asked for over and over again in this and previous years’ survey. While we weren’t able to address everything with our ongoing remodel, we were able to add some services that Owners have been asking for for years. First, our new full-service meat counter, which is finally open for business! We also heard lots of people asking for a hot bar in the East Deli, and we now have one! Other remodel improvements such as an expanded cheese department and new Juice Bar should help make your shopping experience at Willy East even better.
We asked a very open-ended question designed to find out what you most wanted to tell us: “Please share a wish you have for Willy Street Co-op.” As you might imagine, there were a wide variety of responses, ranging from requests to bring in specific products or make specific improvements to unqualified praise to one that made me laugh out loud: “I wish everything would be free for me only.” There were some wishes that were shared by a number of customers. They’re summarized here in order of frequency, from most to least frequently mentioned.
- “Keep doing what you are doing!” Thanks, we will!
- “Please lower prices.” Megan has already responded to this one.
- “Open a store by me!” We are strongly considering opening a third store, and we’ll keep you posted about plans. Like they did with Willy West, Co-op Owners would have to approve the expenditure of funds to open a third store.
- “Increase the amount of parking (especially at East).” This is a yearly request, and—unfortunately—there is very little we can do to increase the amount of parking.
- “Increase accessibility.” We now have an updated Product Selection Philosophy, which is what we use to guide decisions on which products to bring in to our store; it explicitly mentions “accessibility.” We are also working on a new program to offer more accessibility—we’ll share more details as we finalize it.
- “Add a hot bar to East like West has.” Done!
- “Provide more options for Owner interaction, so those with like interests can find each other (in person or online).” We’ll be discussing opportunities for this, but we’d love to also hear what you recommend. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
Now to respond to a few wishes in particular:
- “Make Willy St Reader available online.” It is on our website and you can sign up to get email notification that a new issue is posted. For details, see: http://www.willystreet.coop/activating-your-co-op-web-account
- “Have a place where I can immediately compost excess vegetable greens, like radish tops.” We have a compost bucket in the Commons (seating area). Please just make sure to purchase them before removing the greens!
- “For the bathrooms to be unisex so women don’t always have to wait forever to use the bathroom.” We are doing so at East as part of remodel, where this seems to be a bigger problem than at West.
- “Offer tastings of dairy-free cheeses and products.” Great idea, we will!
- “I wish WSGC could locate and sell USA-made kitchen tools (rather than China).” Good news: we brought in a new vendor a few months ago! Whetstone Woodenware—based in Silver Lake, Indiana—hand-crafts wooden kitchen tools from locally sourced silver maple. We carry their spoons, scrapers & salad sets, bench scrapers, soup ladles and sauerkraut mashers, and rolling pins. We have a variety of other USA-made kitchen tools as well, including beautiful cutting boards from Jewel Hollow Woodcraft in Richland Center, Wisconsin.
- “Provide assistance to groups starting co-ops.” We do! We’ve provided financial assistance as well as expertise. If you or anyone you know needs assistance with setting up a food co-op, contact us at email@example.com.
- “There is no flyer about fresh food sales.” We used to include produce sales in our newsletter but, because of the volatility of fresh product and having to set sale prices weeks before the product arrived, our costs sometimes changed after the newsletter went to print. Sometimes our costs dropped and we were able to offer an even better sale (although the lower price wasn’t in the newsletter); sometimes the price increased and we honored the advertised price. Produce sales are always listed on our website, posted on FB and tweeted on Twitter each Monday. We’re also talking about also creating a flyer for the stores.
- “Grocery carry out for disabled or elderly.“ We offer this! Just ask your cashier or at the Customer Service desk.
- “Daily online—what’s in deli today listing.” Deli hot bar menus are posted daily at willystreet.coop/deli.
- “I love the recipe cards you have scattered throughout the store. Could you add more to the bulk aisle?” We’re working on a way to attach the recipes to the bins, and then we will add more there—thanks for the request!