ESTEVAN - The Southern Plains Co-op enjoyed record sales volumes in 2021-22.
According to audited financial statements released at the co-op’s annual general meeting (AGM) on May 31, the co-op had more than $86 million for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2022, compared to the previous record of $79.5 million set in 2019. Sales in 2021-22 were $13.2 million higher than in 2020-21.
“As health restrictions eased during the pandemic, sales have increased, particularly in the fuel volume coupled with price. The local economy is gaining momentum. The oil and gas sector has seen welcomed growth in activity, along with the agriculture industry,” wrote board chair Scott Kienlen. “Our financial picture remains very strong and we are confident in the future of our co-op.”
The cost of sales was $72.6 million, so the co-op had a gross margin of more than $13.4 million. Operating and administration expenses amounted to nearly $13.1 million.
The co-op received more than $1.6 million from the Federated Co-operatives Ltd. loyalty program and $2.8 million from patronage refunds, while its income tax expense was $645,196. The total net savings for 2021-22 were more than $4.1 million.
The patronage allocation from Southern Plains Co-op to its members will be more than $2.7 million.
“Of course, paying back cash to our members continued even during the pandemic,” said general manager Brian Enns.
The past year saw the co-op start construction on a couple of projects that have been in the works. One was a liquor store in Carlyle and the other is an agriculture facility on the Estevan bypass.
The liquor store opened on May 19, just in time for the Victoria Day long weekend. The co-op also has liquor stores in Estevan and Oxbow.
As for the agriculture facility, it opened for chemical and fertilizer sales in late May. Enns noted there is some work remaining. The rest of the operations will eventually move from the Kensington Avenue agro centre to the Estevan truck bypass.
The cardlock location on Kensington Avenue will remain.
“At Southern Plains, we have a strong balance sheet, so we are positioned to continue to look for other opportunities and maybe diversify into other areas if the opportunities arise,” said Enns.
The co-op is looking to have a new grocery store constructed in Carlyle in 2023-24.
A new board member was elected during the AGM. Connie Nagel will replace Darcy Calder, whose latest three-year term has come to an end. He decided not to seek re-election after 15 years on the board. Calder was thanked for his years of service. Rhonda Huish and James Lainton were re-elected to three-year terms.
Lynne Hewitt, Richard Ruetz and Linda Thauberger-Smith will have their current terms end next year, while Frances Boutin, David Murray and Kienlen have their terms end in 2024.
Kienlen noted the co-op currently employs 211 people, which is the most in its history.
The co-op also continues to contribute to local communities with donations and by sponsoring fundraisers for local events and projects. It is once again booking in-person events such as barbecues.
Members also approved a bylaw that allows people to become a member by submitting an application in writing or completing an online membership application on the co-op’s website. Previously people could only apply in writing.
The AGM was held at the Royal Canadian Legion’s Estevan branch, the first time the session has been held in person since 2019. In 2020 and 2021, the meeting was held at Carlyle’s Prairie Dog Drive-In.
The Prairie Dog served as good hosts, and it was a unique experience, he said.
“It was nice to have our meeting in person again,” said Enns.
In addition to Estevan, Carlyle and Oxbow, the co-op has operations in alameda and Gainsborough.