The Projected Impact of our Eau Claire Expansion

It’s such an exciting and, honestly, daunting time at our co-op. It’s crazy to think that, by the time our next newsletter comes out, we’ll know the date when the doors of our Barstow Street location will open, we’ll be in the thick of essentially doubling the number of people on our staff, and we’ll probably already be building displays in the new location. As we stand at the base of what’s likely to be another huge growth spurt for Menomonie Market Food Co-op, we wanted to take a moment to explain what we expect to happen—not just to sales, but across all parts of our business.

MORE NEW SHOPPERS: The most obvious benefit of expanding our Eau Claire store from 1,500 sq. ft. to 14,000 sq. ft is our ability to immediately several hundred more customers per day. The residents who currently live downtown are in what’s considered to be a “food desert,” meaning they have to travel out of downtown to do most of their grocery shopping. Once the new store opens, we anticipate that we’ll see lots of those folks from the surrounding neighborhoods visiting the new Barstow Street store as they learn what products we offer, which will likely mean higher daily customer counts but smaller basket sizes there than what we see in Menomonie.

INCREASED OWNER ENGAGEMENT: We already have a fairly high number of active owners for a food co-op our size, and we expect to see a steady climb in our number of new ownership sign-ups over the next couple of years as excitement around expansion will be high. For that reason, we also expect to see an increase in the number of inactive owners (owners who haven’t shopped in 2+ years) visiting our co-op again too; we’ve already heard from many who have said they can’t wait to check out the bigger store.

HIGHER LOCAL SALES: Another benefit of more retail space is the opportunity to stock more products from local farmers and makers than ever before. In the first two years, our staff plans to focus on building stronger relationships with local suppliers and developing an educational onboarding process that we hope will help them succeed in retail. And we’ll also be turning our attention to better coordination of local product selections across both stores so availability is similar. We expect that this important work will increase sales for essentially all local suppliers and will help us bring in new ones more efficiently too.

MORE COMPETITIVE PRICING: Once we have two stores that are similar in size, our annual sales volume is projected to increase by as much as 30-40%, which will move our business up a tier as far as buying power and negotiating strength go. This increased volume of purchases will not only automatically allow us to receive better wholesale pricing and more competitive deals with our major distributors, but it will also give our staff more negotiating power with our other direct suppliers. This, in turn, will lead to cost savings that our buying team can pass on to our shoppers through lower everyday prices on many items at both stores and better discounts during special promotions.

NEW JOB OPPORTUNITIES: More products to stock and more customers to serve means we’ll need more staff, and new roles are already being created at both stores to help us prepare to take another big step up. Hiring is expected to begin in early fall and will likely lead to doubling the number of team members we employ over the next year. If sales grow to expected levels, we’ll be able to continue raising our average wage across all positions to make them more competitive in the job market, and we will have more career-level positions that can serve as advancement opportunities for staff who see a future at the co-op long-term.

There are other ways our co-op and community will be impacted by the grand opening of our bigger Eau Claire location, but the common theme is that there will be more of everything. We’re excited for what’s about to be a very big year!

This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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