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Calgary Co-op reminds members of year-long savings

Co-operative hopes to differentiate itself with more deals

Ken Keelor says there's nothing novel about the new Ways to Save campaign at Calgary Co-op. But he says it's a great way to remind its 460,000 member-owners about the many savings they get year-round from the 60-year-old organization.

"We've always had our annual member refund," said Keelor, CEO of the Alberta-based co-operative, which has 4,000 employees and does $1.2 billion in annual sales of food, gas and beer, among other things. "But there are many other ways that our members save on every transaction. That's what we wanted to highlight."

Launched as part of a strategic effort to differentiate itself from competitors (the first stage of which was a review of food, wine, spirits and beer prices in January), the new campaign communicates traditional co-op promotions like flyer sales, price drops, everyday low prices, and digital coupons on its app.

One new initiative is fresh product savings on Basket Basics, and the Managers Specials has been respun at specific locations.

The co-op's store employees have also acted as moving billboards for the campaign, wearing black t-shirts that list the Ways to Save on the back.

According to Keelor, the new campaign is not a reaction to the drop in the price of oil and the slide of Alberta's economy.

"It's a coincidence," he told Canadian Grocer. "We decided on the campaign many months ago as a way to pull all these savings methods together. But it's good that it comes at a time when our customers need those savings the most."

This year, Calgary Co-op will pay out $35 million to its members. The members receive a refund based on their total purchases at the co-op's stores throughout the previous year.

Last month, Calgary-Co-op announced its annual financial results. Total sales were $1.228 billion for the fiscal year to Oct. 31, 2015. That was down slightly from $1.236 a year earlier.

“This small decrease in revenue year-over-year is reflective of the deflationary impact of the collapse in global oil prices on our gas bar operation,” Paul Harrison, the chief financial officer, said in a statement. “This negative revenue variance was almost fully offset by strong year-over-year food store sales results.”

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