Trends: Food Co-op Storefronts Add Buying Clubs to Business

In 2013, some of our buying clubs began final preparations for becoming full retail stores in the next couple of years. With this, they are achieving their long term goals for a community market with a social and environmental consciousness that keeps money flowing to local farmers.

But then we’ve also had a handful of new clubs that are being run by food co-ops that already have storefronts. I think this is a big trend that is rising around the country, and the globe… everything is getting more expensive and any store trying to offer good prices has a hard time surviving.

The main motivation is financial.  Bottom line… they want to create more revenue to keep the doors open, and with buying club style operations they can do that without holding on to inventory, which is a huge expense for retail.  This has always been what I’ve seen as the greatest bonus to buying clubs that run on a shoestring, and people get food at the lowest price possible.  What a great economic model in times that are getting more and more pricey on all ends.

In northern Michigan we are working with the Grain Train Food Co-op, who is now running 5 separate buying clubs.  These folks are doing it to address food deserts that are just out of their reach for daily trips to a store.  They work with a host home in each community, so I might see this as “sub clubs”.  I’d say they are acting as a distributor of local foods, keeping money within that area of the state, increasing sales for farmers, increasing their own revenue while not increasing their inventory, and providing education around eating healthy.  Providing a proper food chain where there isn’t one currently is one of the biggest things they are doing.

In Providence, RI we are working with a small food co-op that is wanting to build more community, provide the lowest cost farm products they can, and do it without increasing their inventory.  They have high hopes for this being how they sustain going forward.  As of the moment, they aren’t sure about their future, so the buying club is how they hope to hang on and continue their work.

If you are, or know of, a retail co-op or natural food store, tell them about doing a buying club and  We provide the software to make it easy, and consulting to get them going.  All in the name of further enhancing the local food system and keeping our dollars within our communities.