In the summer of 2017, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to change the ownership structure of the Co-op to better position it for long-term financial success. The changes to the ownership structure were implemented on October 1, 2017.
When you become an owner/member of The Co-op Natural Foods, you actually become part owner of The Co-op. How cool is that? We are owned and operated by people just like you – your neighbors, friends, colleagues, and members of the community willing to work together for the good of the community.
The purpose of a Co-op is to provide quality goods and services at the lowest cost to owners and other customers, rather than to sell goods and services at the highest price above cost that the customer is willing to pay. So how does that translate into what we do here at The Co-op Natural Foods? Well, it means that we provide the types of products you want for the lowest price possible. We are here to serve you, not the bottom line!
The cost to become an owner is quite reasonable, especially considering how good you will feel when you do! Purchasing your ownership interest in The Co-op is only $200, and it can be paid at once or in installment payments of $40 annually for 5 years. Your ownership in the store can be sold back to The Co-op at any time. There are no annual dues or maintenance fees associated with your ownership.
Co-op membership is voluntary. You do not have to be a member to shop; everyone is welcome! However, there are some special benefits that we offer to Co-op members:
- Receive 20% off special order products
- Receive special Owner Discounts on products you love
- Vote in our democratic elections for the Board of Directors
- Run for a seat on the Board of Directors
- Be a part of something bigger!
The next time you visit The Co-op Natural Foods, let one of our staff members know that you would like to become an owner and enjoy all of the great owner benefits!
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the dividends program compare to the discount program (for me and for the Co-op)?
For you: For Co-ops that have made this change, owners are experiencing more savings under the new benefits program (including dividends and owner-only specials) than they did with the discounts at the register. For the Co-op: It's a more sustainable method of distributing profits. All Co-ops return profits to owners based upon how much they use the services. The discount program returned these profits before we made them. The dividend program allows the board to decide how much profit (if one is made) to return after the books are closed. Patronage dividends allow the Co-op to realize significant tax savings. The dollars that we allocate as patronage stay here in the community. The retained portion of patronage dividends builds financial stability.
What happens to my old stock?
Co-op owners that have kept their stock current can bring in the original stock certificate to be converted into a payment towards the new Co-op stock, which means those owners will already have a $25 credit applied to the new stock value $200.
I have a stock certificate, but I have not paid my annual fee, can I bring it in?
YES! In fact, please do. We would love to convert all stock holderst over to the new stock ownership program.
I recently paid my annual fee, what happens now?
Your Co-op ownership is valid for the full year you paid for when you renewed, however your ownership benefits will be as stated under the new system; meaning, you will no longer receive a 5% discount, but will get all of the other owner benefits. On the one-year anniversary, you will be asked to upgrade to the new ownership stock price of $200 and will be able to trade in your $25 stock at that time. You can certainly upgrade your stock at any time during the year, as well, but your ownership benefits will remain the same.
So, I don't get a 5% discount anymore?
No, the discount at the register approach has placed a signficant financial burden on the Co-op in many ways. You WILL, however, receive significant owner benefits that have been structured in a way that reduces the uncontrollable burden on the Co-op, while still giving you many fantastic reasons to continue your ownership as well.
Will the Co-op distribute dividends every year?
No necessarily. Patronage will only be paid out in years when the Co-op is profitable.
Do I have to pay taxes on my dividends?
No, patronage rebates in the form of store credit will be issued and are not subject to income tax. HOwever, if you use the Co-op to make purchases for a business, you should consult your accountant.
Why is the stock price increasing to $200?
We decided to set the price at $200 after several months of research that included consultation from an accounting firm specializing in cooperatives who looked at our financial picture as well as our grwoth plans to determine what an individual investment in the Co-op should be. Next, we looked at peer co-ops from accross the country. Grocery Co-ops vary in size, ownership base, revenue and owner participation. Next, we took a long look at what an investment in the Co-op means, as well as how meaningful a $25 investment is compared with a $200 investment in the hopes of inspiring a much higher lever of owner engagement. The final step was to set our strategic goals for hte next five years and examine the kind of capital requirements it would take to start trying to multiple requests of our owners.
How is the Co-op different from any other store now?
There are so many things that differentiate us from a convential store. Here are five ways in which the Co-op is different from other grocery stores:
- As an Owner, you actually own the store.
- The Co-op can only be owned by the people who use it. Corporations can be owned by anyone.
- The Co-op exists to provide a service, while publicly traded corporates exist to create a profit for their shareholders.
- The Co-op will return profits based on how much our owners use the service, not by how much stock they own.
- Our Co-op is democratically owned by community residents, lending accountability and oversight to store operations.