A sustainable food marketplace is guided by Shared Economics. For workers, this means good pay, benefits, and the opportunity for advancement. For consumers, this means having a store dedicated to meeting your needs for great products at affordable prices from trusted producers. And for our jointly owned co-op, shared economics means maintaining a solid financial footing.
One of our achievements in recent years has been to improve wages. Over the last five years, the minimum starting pay has increased from $9 to $12 per hour, and the average non-manager pay has increased from $11 to $15 per hour.
WSM offers two medical plans to provide workers a choice in cost and coverage. The most popular platinum plan ranks in the top 25 percent of all insurance plans in terms of benefits, co-pay, and deductible. It’s better than plans provided by other employers of our size, and includes dental and vision coverage as well as medical.
Like other businesses, Weaver Street’s health costs are going up, but we are able to control costs somewhat by being self-insured. We have an active wellness program and a worker group that works to improve benefits while managing costs.
Eighty-five percent of WSM workers participate in the 401k retirement plan. We are halfway to our five-year goal of having participating workers save over 10 percent of their pay for retirement between the 401k and the retained worker dividend.
WSM’s pay and benefits put all workers above the living wage standard set by Orange County Living Wage.
WSM acts as a buying agent for our consumers and owners, finding the best products at affordable prices from vendors that we know and trust.
One of the ways that we offer great products is by making baked goods and deli items fresh daily in our Food House. These are our most popular and fastest growing products. Last year we doubled the size of our hot bar, improved the recipes on many deli products, and added new items. The Food House produces 25 percent of the products that we sell and is the largest artisan bakery, kitchen, and butcher shop of any co-op in the country.
WSM needs to compete with much larger chains that are using lower prices on natural foods to attract customers. Since we lack their buying power, we need to develop creative ways to compete on price. One way we do this is by buying direct. We were able to lower our deli cheese prices by 30 percent by buying direct from Cabot Creamery, a farmer co-op in Vermont. We work with local producers to develop efficient distribution systems to keep their prices competitive. We pool our buying power with other co-ops to offer a line of “Co-op Basics,” everyday low prices on top selling items.
We appreciate that owners expect us to source our products from trusted producers who share our values. We now buy almost half of our products from local producers and co-ops, and work diligently to increase the portion of our products that come from these trusted producers.
Weaver Street Market well-being
Part of shared economics is keeping the co-op strong financially. WSM same-store sales grew 6 percent last year, much higher than the natural food industry average. The co-op once again exceeded its profitability goal of 1.5 percent of sales and was able to pay a modest dividend.