“Compete, respond, and lead,” urged Doug O’Brien, president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), as he moderated the opening panel of this year’s national conference of food co-ops, the Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference, better known as CCMA2019. The CCMA conference has been held annually since 1980. This year’s conference in June brought hundreds of food co-op managers, board members, and industry experts to Durham, North Carolina.
One theme behind the conference was the need to meet the challenge of market competition. Although the need to compete is not a new theme for the more than 300 food co-ops in the US, it looms ever larger as big box stores embrace the natural and organic food customers, e-commerce rears its convenience head, younger generations clamor for engaging retail experiences, and the rising costs of occupancy, personnel, and health coverage press on the sector’s razor-thin margins.
The concern for survival is no small matter. Last fall, Harvest Co-op, which had been operating in the Boston area since 1974, closed its doors for good. Then, this past January, Renaissance Community Co-op, a highly promising startup that opened in a food desert section of Greensboro, North Carolina, in late 2016, had to close—in part, suggests the local paper, due to difficulty in marketing and finding a niche in the crowded grocery market field. Still, at the CCMA conference, it was clear that for every failure story, there were many tales of success.Read Debby’s Full Article at Nonprofit Quarterly