Co-op members in Comox Valley rewarded for patronage

For the second straight year, Comox District Co-op members will receive more than $400,000 in cash this spring.

COMOX DISTRICT CO-OP president David Page gives out a  dividend cheque.

COMOX DISTRICT CO-OP president David Page gives out a dividend cheque.

For the second straight year, Comox District Co-op members will receive more than $400,000 in cash this spring, with individual cheques ranging from about $60 up to a whopping $7,000.

Members of the Co-op are paid a “patronage allocation” every year based on their purchases over the past year. At its annual general meeting, the Co-op’s seven-member board announced that, for only the second time in recent memory, this year’s allocation will be paid out entirely in cash.

Historically, the Co-op has paid a portion of the allocation, which this year equals five per cent of purchases, in equity.

“We’re very pleased to be paying it all in cash this year,” says Co-op manager Richard Kerton. “Our members have supported us, so we’re giving back to them — that’s the way it works.

“Despite price wars this past year, we were able to meet the price and our members came in and supported us. Because of them, the Co-op achieved record sales this year.”

While rewarding its members and “moving ahead by giving back” are key tenets of the Co-op philosophy, Kerton says the board is confident a five per cent allocation is sustainable over the long term.

“We really feel that we can maintain five per cent over a longer period of time, and that’s our goal,” he says. “We have our balance sheet in order and have good, steady income growth so we can say, ‘yes, we can maintain this.’ We want our members to know they’ll get at least a five-per-cent dividend every year.”

That commitment to sustainability is another aspect of the Co-op’s guiding principles, says Kerton.

“We’re here for the long run. We never just build something and then sell it a couple of years later and move on to something else. We opened in the Comox Valley in 1960 and we’ve been here ever since, struggling at times, but working to build a business that gives our members a good return on their investment. Because that’s what they’re doing when they buy their $10 lifetime membership — they’re investing in us.

“That principle goes all the way to our refinery, which Co-op members own outright,” he continues. “When the refinery makes money, it comes back to our membership. The co-operative principle is to build something and stay. And when it starts to work, it’s wonderful.”

Cheques will be distributed to Co-op members at the annual members’ barbecue in May. Non-members can pick up a membership application at either of two Comox Valley Co-op locations (699 Aspen Road in Comox or 4889 Island Highway atop Mission Hill in Courtenay) or by visiting www.comoxvalleycoop.ca.

— Comox District Co-op