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Southern Plains Co-op celebrates past year's successes at annual meeting

The co-op had more than $108 million in sales in 2023-24, making it the co-op's second-best year ever.
Cutline: People turned out for the Southern Plains Co-op's annual general meeting on May 28 in Oxbow.

OXBOW - The Southern Plains Co-op had a lot to discuss during its annual general meeting on May 28 at the Oxbow Friendship Centre.

Audited financial statements released during the meeting showed the co-op had more than $108.84 million in sales for the 2023-24 fiscal year, which ended on Jan. 31. The amount is down from the record-setting $111.288 million seen in 2022-23, but it's easily the second-best year in the co-op's history.

The cost of goods sold was nearly $94.67 million, leaving the co-op with a gross margin of more than $14.17 million.

Operating and administrative expenses were $15.9 million, but net interest was $399,243, leaving the co-op with a loss from operations of more than $1.32 million.

The FCL loyalty program brought in $1.62 million, and the patronage refund was $3.27 million, so the co-op had $3.57 million in savings before income taxes, which amounted to $227,958. The net savings for 2023-24 were $3.34 million, compared with more than $3.98 million in 2022-23.  

Board president Scott Keinlen said the sales decline can be attributed to a decrease in prices for fuel, and crop inputs of fertilizer and chemical. Overall food sales held steady, a good increase occurred in Carlyle. Convenience store sales were down, fuel litres for the association struggled to meet 2022-23's level, and home-building supplies were down slightly, but there was strong year-over-year increases at the liquor outlets.

"This being said, our financial position remains strong," wrote Keinlen. "We continue to look for diversification opportunities to grow our business while contributing back to our local communities."

General manager Brian Enns noted that if they have another year for sales like 2023-24, the co-op will approach $2 billion in cumulative sales since its inception in April 1946.

"I don't know what the founding fathers thought they were getting into in 1946, but with the co-op, we've been around for a long time, and we continue to grow," said Enns.

Keinlen and Frances Boutin have been elected to another three-year term on the board. David Murray has opted not to seek another term, so the board will operate with eight members instead of nine this year. The co-op can have anywhere from seven to 10 members.

Other board members are Connie Hagel, Rhonda Huish and James Lainton, whose terms expire in 2025; and Marcia Greenwood, Lynne Hewitt and Linda Thauberger-Smith, who are slated to be up for re-election in 2026.

Construction is underway on a new food store in Carlyle in late fall 2023. Once complete, the food store will be adjacent to Highway 13, east of the Ramada Inn.

"This project is on budget and scheduled to open in very late fall 2024," said Kienlen.

The relocation of the co-op's administrative department took place over the winter, and the offices are now located in the former agro location on Kensington Avenue in Estevan. Enns said the change has gone well.

"It's definitely a change from being where we had lots of people coming in, to limited traffic coming in. We're not seeing as many people because we're not in the food store, but we still get … some people coming in, and it's functioning quite well for us," said Enns.

He pointed out the agro store that opened in 2022 continues to perform well for the co-op.

"We know that in southeast Saskatchewan, agriculture is still a large economic driver, so we want to help in that area the best we can."

Kienlen noted the co-op currently employs 225 people, an increase over last year, which reflects the steadiness and prosperity of the association.

More than $201,000 was donated to communities in the southeast in 2023-24, and the co-op continued to support fundraisers.

Enns was pleased with the turnout for the meeting. There was about 40 people present, and it was, to his knowledge, the first time the meeting has been in Oxbow.

"I think it's important to get out there into the different communities the best we can," said Enns. "In talking to some of the people that were around longer than I have been, [they said] the meeting had never been in Oxbow, so this was new to them and some of the people were very appreciative."