With talk of fiscal cliffs, recessions and financial uncertainty, the Prince Albert Co-op has subscribed to the Saskatchewan advantage, reporting a year of record sales.
Raking in a record $195 million in sales during their recently ended business year, general manager Dave Marchant credits a good farm-centred sales and their new city-based grocery store as key factors.
“We’re very pleased with the acceptance of the new food store,” he said of the Cornerstone Shopping District-centred business, which opened in 2011. “We’re getting a lot of support from the east side.”
Although at 43,000 square feet it’s almost 10 per cent smaller than its former downtown-based building, the new location has resulted in greater foot traffic.
“Where our sales are up significantly is our evening business and our weekends,” Marchant said. “Saturday is up 300 per cent, Sunday business is up 400 per cent, where before on the weekends people didn’t go downtown.”
During the new grocery store’s first full year, which ended in June, they were up 23 per cent in sales, with an additional 14 per cent increase noted from June until the end of the business year in October.
When it comes to fuel sales throughout the 10 Prince Albert area communities they operate in, they’re selling 100 million litres of fuel per year, which Marchant says is a sign of doing “very well.”
But, he noted, it would have been even better if not for Diefenbaker bridge weight restrictions and lane closures, which limited bridge use for a significant portion of the business year.
“Earlier in the year the big trucks and that went around P.A. instead of through P.A.,” Marchant noted.
We’re very pleased with the acceptance of the new food store. - Prince Albert Co-op general manager Dave Marchant
“But, our farm business was up and our farmers had a pretty decent year, and we do a fair amount of business with our farming friends.”
It wasn’t just record sales that notched the 2011-2012 business year into their record books, but the “blackout of 2012,” as well.
During the 24-hour power outage, they kept their convenience store open, selling fuel for 24 hours straight.
“It was real fortunate that we got a chance to help the community,” Marchant said.
“We had a lot of stories, like ‘my brother had a heart attack in Regina and I don’t have enough fuel to get out of town,’ or, ‘I have a job interview in Winnipeg tomorrow and I can’t get out of town if you guys weren’t open.’”
Continued financial success will mean business expansion and improvements throughout the 2012-2013 business year, which began on Nov. 1.
By summer, a $6-million project will begin at the aging convenience store and carwash on Second Avenue West, where everything will be torn down and replaced.
Also in the works is a 2.8-million-litre bulk fuel station near Shellbrook, hoped to open by the spring, and a $4-million convenience store and card lock pump in Wakaw.
The Co-op’s recently ended business year’s record-setting stature is a $10-million boost over the previous year’s record of about $185 million.
The board of directors has yet to determine what this will mean for membership, though Marchant estimates that it should be be about five per cent.