By Joe Morey
A presentation and discussion were held at the LCO Ojibwe Community College Pipe Mustache Auditorium on Wednesday, Jan. 23, regarding the possible relocation of the LCO Country Store.
The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) is circulating a survey in the community in reference to a plan for moving the LCO Country Store from its current location to the Northeast section of the Hwy B & K corner, across from the Sevenwinds Casino and Dollar General.
Jason Weaver, LCO Secretary-Treasurer, said the presentation was only the preliminary stages of the process and nothing was certain yet. He said the Perkins Marketing Company out of Northfield, MN, conducted a feasibility study on the possible relocation and now we are in the next phase.
“We are circulating the community survey to find out if this is what the tribal membership wants and if so, what they want to see in a newly constructed store,” said Weaver.
Spartan Nash senior sales manager, Greg Cross, discussed the findings of the Perkins study and what a new store could mean for the community. Spartan Nash is a grocery wholesaler that serves over 2,000 independent grocers throughout the United States with over $8 billion in sales this past year.
“In addition to supplying grocery, frozen, dairy, meat, produce, deli-bakery, HBA and general merchandise products to stores at the lowest possible costs, we work with stores to help them better serve their customers and keep up with the latest trends,” Cross said.
The Perkins study findings found that the defined trade area for the community was a 15-mile ring with a population of 13,183 year-round residents that spend $840,665 every week, according to Cross.
Walmart does $400,000 weekly, with MarketPlace doing $335,000 per week. Other stores in the findings included LCO Country Store at $34,500, Dollar General at $15,000 and the Winter Co-op with $45,000, according to the Perkins findings. There is an additional $24,665 per week spent on grocery items at local convenience stores, such as Kwik Trip in Hayward.
These findings do not include alcohol or tobacco sales.
Cross explained a three-year growth plan for two scenarios if the store were moved to the new location by the casino and was opened in the fall of 2020.
In the first scenario, the store size would be expanded to 12,000 square feet from the current 8,000 square feet. The average sales per week would be in 2021; $$62,860, in 2022; $65,374 and in 2023; $66,631. The current average sales per week for the store are $34,500.
In the second scenario, the store size would be expanded to 16,000 square feet. The average sales per week would be in 2021; $78,337, in 2022; $81,471 and in 2023; $83,037.
In addition to these increased revenues, Cross explained more cost savings that would be experienced in a new store, such as having all meat and produce behind closed doors rather than the open air refrigeration.
“This is a fairly new concept that most stores are doing now,” Cross said. “Your store would see an annual savings of about $65,000 to $75,000 in energy savings alone.”
Cross added the shelf life of the meat and produce is extended by having it behind closed doors as well. “It’s better for the customer to have a fresher product.”
Cross said the new store would have motion-sensor LED lighting so when no one is an aisle, the lights go down and come back on when someone is there. Other features included pallet drafts down an aisle towards the check outs where the store can have impulse buying for bulk sales, deli service area with in-store seating, a deli and bakery combined area using the same equipment, self-service check outs, and grab and go products made in house sold at the C-Store keeping sales within.
All these are cost saving measures that will add to revenues, Cross explained.
“Key factor however is that if tribal members would support this store on a weekly basis instead of Walmart of MarketPlace, sales would be much higher,” Cross said.
“We need to know what our members would like to see in a new grocery store, such as a deli, meat counter, and bakery, and we need to find out other information such as why they aren’t shopping at the current store,” said Weaver.
The community survey has 16 questions that will help tribal government decide the next course of action. You can pick up a copy of the survey at the LCO Country Store or Koobie’s Coffee or cut out the survey published in this issue following the article. You may drop off the completed surveys at the store or Koobies.
Weaver said anyone who fills out the survey will be entered into a weekly drawing for a $100 gift certificate to the LCO Country Store.
The design group, DBS was also at the forum. They are designers of the new store plan. DBS is the company that designed the Fourwinds Market complex for the St. Croix Tribe in Siren.
In a previous article about the store plan, Perkins Marketing Group, who have over 30 years of experience doing feasibility studies, discussed their findings.
Perkins said the new facility will improve operations and conditions with the focus on product quality, variety and value as well as promote their local hometown service-oriented shopping experience.
“A new facility will allow the space to expand the perishable departments, allow a better price image via a wall-of-values, offer more end displays, and increase manufacturer’s allowance items,” Perkins said. “In addition, seasonal items will be given the space to create strong summer sales, as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and other events.”
Another thing discussed at the college presentation included the age of the current store. As Cross mentioned, the age of the facility adds to increased costs and less energy savings.
Weaver added the current store is in need of repairs. “The refrigeration replacement alone would cost $200,000. We have to decide whether we want to continue to repair the store or would it be better to put that money into a new store.”