Increasingly, food co-ops are reaping benefits from sponsoring occasional special events that include purchase discounts for member-owners, events that frequently are termed “Member Appreciation Days.” Grand Opening celebrations for new or newly remodeled stores provide further opportunities for promoting member ownership.
Scott Cooper of Rising Tide Community Market and others (listserve, January 6, 2012) summarized elements of a successful co-op Grand Opening: “Kids’ Bounce House, huge free raffle with logo swag giveaways and $500 grand prize gift card. We did huge case stack sale as well that worked pretty well.”
Steve Cooke of Friendly City Food Co-op added, “Local vendors with booths in parking lot, or tables around store. Lots of samples and freebie handouts from national manufacturers. Your UNFI rep should have been working on this for you.” Additionally, “We had massage therapists doing seated massage and there was a line the whole time, plus face painting, and games.”
Grace Cox recalled activities at Olympia Food Co-op: “What worked: Contra dance through the aisles. Live music, way fun. What didn’t work: Depressed clown. No, really. He didn’t seem depressed at Red Robin, but he sure did at the grand opening.”
Doug Walter of Davis Food Co-op contributed other special event ideas: “We had a grand re-opening celebration that tried to bridge two days: Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Both were successful, but in this case the Friday night dance was more popular. We've done other Saturday (or Sunday) events with part of our parking lot, and despite some inconvenience, we do get families to come out. Last fall's Eat Local Fair, with samples, CSA farmers (most, but not all of whom sell us produce for the store), other local producers (e.g. honey, ice cream) and a dance school's flash mob was an event that I'd use as a template, were we to start planning an afternoon Grand Opening.”
Walter also added a reminder: “When you advertise (paid and free), you can and should use “welcome” and “open to everyone” and similar phrases. If your attitude and rhetoric align, then those who do take you up on it (by attending) sense that you’re actually interested in seeing new faces, from beyond your “core.” That word-of-mouth will spread.”
Diana Jones of Valley Food Co-op offered this unique contribution to the exchange: “At our anniversary celebration we had a community art project. A local artist painted an outline of our logo on a colorful background. The piece also had a patterned border outlined. Members and others who shopped that day used their creativity to paint a piece of the logo or border. The piece now hangs proudly in our bulk foods section.”
Members Appreciation Days
Many food co-ops have generated greater owner sales through special promotional events over one or more days, often known as “Member Appreciation Days.” Suzette Snow-Cobb of Franklin Community Co-op listed activities that co-op has included such promotions:
“We've had different themes, including health & wellness, eating local, sustainable energy, co-op. For some we've had a big tent in our parking lot, or used our meeting room and places throughout the store. Going along with whatever theme we've invited local groups/providers for informational tables. Health & Wellness: hospice, visiting nurse assoc., free chair massage, nutritionist. Eating local: invited farmers, producers, had recipes, sampling. Co-op: Creators of Co-opoly Game, sampling of products from co-op producers, area co-ops from other sectors (like Pedal People, worker co-op who do deliveries via bicycle or PV2 who installed our solar panels, local credit unions). Almost always include music at some point during the day, raffle baskets (for members & non-members), "greeters" at our entrances to let people know what is going on for the day. We've had poetry readings, combined with art openings, film showing (most recently "Cyclovida"), sidewalk chalk drawing, seed swap, informational tables about co-op projects, live broadcast by local radio station popular host.”
Scott Cooper of Rising Tide Community Market says they changed away from a single day promotion: “We have moved to Member/Owner Appreciation Week and give each owner an opportunity to shop at 10% off everything in the store (currently mail postcard coupon to all current and past owners as an incentive to get lapsed owners to become current on equity investments.) This was based on owner feedback and directly in regards to being able to take advantage of the discount at their convenience as well as finding the crazy one-day event too busy to take the time to shop thoroughly. We have sampling everyday and raffle giveaways all week. In addition we have an anniversary day each year that is more festive with outside sampling/cookout, bounce house for kids, big raffles and music.”
One version of a special member promotion is a parking lot truckload sale, something Bloomingfoods Co-op holds twice yearly, as explained in this article by Jennifer Hileman: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2008-12-27/truckload-sales-drive-value.
For planning for the important even of the co-op's annual meeting, this article by Ellen Michel http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2004-06-09/annual-meetings explores ideas for “getting it right to energize and delight.”
Carol Spurling of Moscow Food Co-op provided a summary of that co-op’s annual meeting (August 30, 2011): Our meeting is in a nearby historic building that is our community center. On a Sunday in the fall, early evening, we offer complimentary dinner, an array of desserts from our kitchen, no-host wine/beer bar, supervised children's activities in a separate room, a chance for members to provide input on a particular matter of importance (each table can choose one perso n to share the thoughts of the entire table out loud, everyone has their own piece of paper for written comments as well), time for conversation amongst people at the tables, short business meeting, door prizes, sometimes live music (not loud) during the non business portions of the get together, and last year we forbid the use of Powerpoints, and it was so much nicer we're keeping that prohibition this year as well. The array of desserts was wildly popular -- people remember them even better than the topic of importance that we discussed!”