For a couple decades or more, many food co-ops have been growing strongly – in sales, in member owners, in staffing and store size. Co-ops also have become more strongly networked, accumulating a great deal of shared professional experience that helps guide these businesses through the many challenges of growth and expansion.
Cooperative Grocer articles:
*A good introduction to thinking about retail co-op expansion is a 2005 article by Bill Gessner and Patricia Cumbie, “Co-op Expansions Raise the Bar: Retail performance is key when bigger is better”: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2009-01-21/co-op-expansions-raise-bar.
A great many retail co-op expansion stories have appeared in Cooperative Grocer and can be found through an archive search for “co-op expansions” or a co-op’s name: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/by-topic.
Included among those past articles, “Avoiding Post-Expansion Burnout,” by Carolee Colter, offers lessons that may not have been anticipated: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2009-01-21/avoiding-post-expansion-burnout. See also: “Avoiding Post-Expansion Burnout: The board of directors’ role,” by Bill Gessner: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2009-01-21/avoiding-post-expansion-burnout-0.
A more selective list of Cooperative Grocer articles, including more depth of information and analysis on certain aspects of expansion, appears on the website of CDS Consulting Co-op: http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/services/expansion-and-growth.
*Much of the best knowledge and advice on retail co-op expansions has been distilled in the “Expansion Toolbox,” by Bill Gessner, a veteran co-op consultant. The publication is available in print and as a pdf download from: http://www.cgin.coop/EXPANSION TOOLBOX.
NCGA Development Cooperative:
Assistance for retail co-op expansion is provided by the Development Cooperative, a subsidiary of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (https://www.ncga.coop). The Development Cooperative is growing in its resources and services; here is an introductory report from 2011 by the Development Cooperative executive director, C.E. Pugh: http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/articles/2011-11-17/ncga-development-cooperative-addresses-growing-demand.