NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Co-op is enjoying a financial rebound from its struggles of recent years, with a boost in operating profit so far in 2020, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greater efficiency, hard work by employees and loyalty by members got the credit as the board of directors of the 77-year-old landmark store held the fall membership meeting Wednesday evening.
The Co-op has struggled in recent years, through a succession of general managers, a handful of layoffs, and a gradual loss of market share to online retail and the corporate giants that run much-larger markets in the area, four of them right on nearby Balltown Road.
Sunny Lee, co-president of the board, said that when industry veteran Dennis Hanley came on as interim manager in November 2019, he began a top-down review looking for potential changes and improvements.
This prompted a full house at a January membership meeting, with some members unhappy about the changes being made and some reports of employees unhappy with the atmosphere being created by those changes.
Hanley acknowledged afterward that change is hard, but said it was his intention to mentor the workforce through it.
“He really did as much as he could to bring us into the 21st century,” Lee said Wednesday.
Among the most important changes: A new supply contract with C&S Wholesale Grocers that stipulated three deliveries a week — which Hanley locked in right before the COVID crisis reached New York and led to bare shelves even at big stores with their own supply chains.
“That allowed us to continue the trajectory we saw before COVID hit,” Lee said, noting that gross revenues had already begun to improve in early winter.
Even with three deliveries a week, the Co-op has been out of stock on some items as much as 50 percent of the time.
“But being a small store can make it appear stocked, and it was for the most part,” Lee said.
She added that members for the most part heeded the Co-op’s call during the height of the pandemic lock down to consolidate their shopping into fewer trips and to come alone rather than bring the family, both of which were important to limit occupancy in the store and reduce the potential spread of disease.
Treasurer Greg Mattice quantified the turnaround since Jan. 1:
- Revenue of $6.55 million in the first nine months of 2020 vs. $8.40 million for all of 2019 and $8.43 million for all of 2018.
- Gross profit of $2.16 million for nine months vs. $2.53 million and $2.52 million for the full years of 2019 and 2018.
- Net income of $136,677 for nine months vs. a full-year loss of $57,686 in 2019 and income of $25,107 for all of 2018.
- Cash reserves of $700,000 at the end of September 2020 vs. $425,000 at the end of 2019 and $602,000 at the end of 2018.
Mattice also broke out the performance in a month-by-month chart:
- Revenue was higher in almost every month so far in 2020 vs. the same months in 2019 and 2018.
- Gross profit was higher all the way through except briefly in April.
- Net income was higher except in April, when an accounting change resulted in a backlog of expenses being paid.
New General Manager Shannon Risley, who took over from Hanley in August, said that productivity — value of sales made per hour worked by employees — was 38 percent higher in September 2020 than in November 2019.
“Our store is in a much stronger financial and operational position,” board co-president Sarah Bilofsky said, crediting the board, the employees and most of all the members.
“It is the Co-op community that made this turnaround possible,” she said.
In a final bit of good news, the Co-op has seen a mini-surge of new members in recent months — 21 in August and 20 in September — despite the cost of a membership rising to $25 in February, after more than 76 years at $5.