Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 10, 2017 - 10:00 am

Struggling Nunavut co-op store looks to boost business

"Ultimately it’s the people of Baker Lake who will decide"

Baker Lake’s Sanavik Co-operative Association is looking for ways to encourage member support at its struggling co-op store. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Baker Lake’s Sanavik Co-operative Association is looking for ways to encourage member support at its struggling co-op store. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

Baker Lake’s Sanavik Co-operative Association says it’s looking for ways to encourage business at the Kivalliq community’s co-op store.

The co-op association hosted its annual general meeting in Baker Lake July 5. One of the bigger points of discussion was how to bump sales at the store, one of two major retail outlets in the Kivalliq community of 2,000.

Casey Tulurialik has served as president of the Sanavik Co-operative Association for the last five years, and said the co-op store has struggled financially for most of that time.

Tulurialik pointed to two major issues: the co-op store faces tough pricing from the competition—the local Northern store and two other independently-run stores— and the other major issue is the high management turnover in recent years.

“We talked about having managers coming and going and not staying here in the community permanently,” Tulurialik said of last week’s meeting.

“And getting more support from the members, shopping more often at the co-op.”

Tulurialik would not disclose any of the store’s financial information, although some in the community have suggested the store is close to bankruptcy

Sanavik Co-operative Association was first established in 1971. The association also operates a hotel, convenience store, cable television services, property rentals and a fuel delivery service in the community.

Its parent company, Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., operates co-op stores in every Nunavut community apart from Clyde River. Iqaluit’s Ventures Marketplace is unique in that it is owned and operated by ACL, not a local board as. Other co-op stores are autonomous, community-run businesses, managed by a local board of directors.

A store’s general manager, for example, would be hired by the board and report to its directors.

At the request of the board, ACL can assist them with the recruiting process, such as advertising or pre-screening candidates, as it has done in Baker Lake. But its role is largely a supporting one, said Duane Wilson, ACL’s vice president of stakeholder relations.

The actual store facility in Baker Lake is large and relatively new—it was constructed in 2010.

“The local board at the time expressed the need for a new store,” Wilson said, “but that just hasn’t parlayed into the type of support that that type of investment requires.”

“It’s the type of facility that, if the people choose to support it, it could provide for their many wants and needs,” he added. “It’s not the case that it’s a dramatically sub-standard offering by any case.”

Ultimately, co-ops in small communities can be very successful in meeting the needs of their communities and returning benefits to their member owners, Wilson said, but that relies on members’ support.

“If people in Baker Lake are concerned about predatory pricing or a monopoly, they might be best served by making a decision to support a locally-owned business that they’re members of,” he said.

“It’s no one desire to see the people of Baker Lake lose a [retail] option. But ultimately it’s the people of Baker Lake who will decide.”

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(18) Comments:

#1. Posted by Professor Flute on July 10, 2017

Sanavik Co-op no longer has the fuel contract.. Another company does that now..

#2. Posted by Trying to Shop Local on July 10, 2017

I think many people in all the Communities Try to shop at the Co-op first. With the dividends, supporting local etc. The biggest problem most of the time is the local co-op’s that are not well managed tend to not know there product “turns”
Putting re order numbers based on weekly or bi weekly volume.

Customers like to buy the same thing. Take for instance bread. Many people by the same kind of bread and do not like to switch what they are used to. If you go to the co-op and they are out of the bread you want to buy, do you just go with out? Or do you go to the Northern Store and get it? Then when you go over to the Northern Store, you end up buying other things at the same time. So the co-op didn’t just lose out on the $4.99 bread sale, they probably missed out on lets say a average $20 to $30 for someone who was just running in to get a loaf of bread.
It is really important that these are managed well, or the people that want to support local don’t have a really have a choice

#3. Posted by Kombucha Kid on July 10, 2017

The Coop in Rankin is run fairly well. They have been quite innovative lately and have better product now than the Northern store, which used to be ahead of them as far as selection and quality goes. When you think about how many managers the Northern in Rankin has gone through in the last 5 years versus the Coop it’s no surprise that the Northern has slowly fallen behind.

#4. Posted by Disappointed Shopper on July 10, 2017

I live in Baker, and I avoid the Co-op for two reasons:
1. It is always really hot in the Co-op
2. There is never a line at the check out yet it takes forever to check out. This is because there is no employee at the check out or an item won’t scan and the employee has to go find a manager, whom they can never find, to fix the problem. I have gone to the Co-op to pick up one item while my wife goes to the Northern to get everything else. She is usually done shopping first and has to waiting for me.

These two issues make going to the Baker Co-op really frustrating. Thus, my wife and I avoid the Co-op as much as we can,

The funny thing is, the Co-op actually has some items I prefer over what I can get at the competition, but the frustration just isn’t worth it. I’ve shopped at Co-ops in other communities and it has been a pleasant experience.

#5. Posted by former baker laker on July 10, 2017

Maybe the Baker Lake co-op should be run by the Rankin Co-op board. The manager is only one small part of running the co-op. The board is local, the staff is local, and the members are local. Since 1971, are you telling me Baker Lakers can’t run a grocery store? Stop the excuses.

#6. Posted by Not exactly on July 10, 2017

#5 I disagree that the manager is only “one small part”. The manager is a major part of how smooth an operation runs. Although I agree that having a good board is also an essential factor. A good board and a crap manager will not yield results.

#7. Posted by Kingpin on July 10, 2017

The answer is simple, marijuanna. Once it’s legal for recreational use obtain the permission from the GN to be the dispensary for each of the Nunavut communities.  And don’t think that the Northern Store is not already looking into it.

Play the cards right and the Co-op can become Nunavut’s largest legal drug dealer.

#8. Posted by a person from Baker on July 10, 2017

Most of the reason why I don’t really buy from co-op is because most of their products are out of date (old)

#9. Posted by Co-operatives the better model on July 11, 2017

Co-operatives need to first be built then supported by their owners. A lot of Co-operatives are successful in the Arctic because they are properly supported by their member owners.
Support comes in many ways.
Shop the store. Pay your charge account. Be an active member by promoting the operation. Offer feedback to the board and management.
Co-ops are a business first. The more profits there are, the more more profits are shared. The more the community can benefit from their business.
If a small community like Naujat (800 or so residents) can return $1,200,000 in patronage in one year, then it’s proven that the model can work. A store like Sanavik Co-op needs the same kind of support to succeed.

There is no doubt that competing in the grocery/retail industry is difficult. With the WalMarts and Amazons of the world that give you nothing back, outside of instant gratification on a lower price, the support of these locally owned operations is crucial.

#10. Posted by Co-operatives a better model on July 11, 2017

These operations tend to be small, but are faced with the same challenges as other local businesses. High costs, difficulty finding quality management, greatly dependent on the Arctic Trans-Canada highway (First Air, CDN North, Calm Air etc..), managing of product, basic logistics, turnover in day-to-day operating staff and the never ending fight for as many consumer dollars as possible.
For the communities that have struggling Co-ops, don’t give up on the model. Play a part. Help your community. Be a builder and a proud owner.
It is not the best model, but certainly better than NWC.

#11. Posted by Shillin like a villian on July 11, 2017

#9 & #10 it strikes me that you most likely work in the ACL system, no?

#12. Posted by Co-operatives a better model on July 11, 2017

The Co-operative system has treated me very well over the years. The system is my former employer and I do what I can to support it.
The member owners need to support their own(ed) stores.
The Co-op system is not perfect, but it is a better local alternative, if the community is engaged in its success.

#13. Posted by Connector on July 11, 2017

Last I heard,  the Co-op in Grise Fiord has zero ties to ACL.  Wonder if that’s still the case, sounds like a story to me Nunatsiaq,  how DO they do it?

#14. Posted by Reality on July 11, 2017

#13 ask Cape Dorset co-op how that went..Is there a Northern Store in Grise Fiord?

#15. Posted by Connector on July 11, 2017

Nope, Grise only has the one store.

#16. Posted by matt r teed on July 12, 2017

Grise Fiord Coop really struggles old dated product on the shelf etc. This is firsthand from people who live there

#17. Posted by baker resident on July 13, 2017

The co-op would do better if they quit trying to sell out
Dated products most things at the coop are expired and they need to work better with their customer services lets go Northern and NPS

#18. Posted by Expensive Coop Store on July 14, 2017

I know of coop stores that sell at 50 % off, out-dated products, over a year out-dated and the ridiculously HIGH prices for items.  Can someone from the coop business explain to the public why a 5 gallon jerry can at the coop is over 105.00 dollars, while the same product is just over 21.00 dollars at the northern?  you wonder why people shop at the competitor?  Not rocket science to figure it out.

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