Tofino Co-op staff took five to celebrate a team success last week. For the past two years, the organization has achieved the best relative financial performance out of 200 Co-ops across Western Canada. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino Co-op ranks number 1 in profitability

General Manager credits sound financial leadership and local support.

The Tofino Consumers Co-operative Association has achieved the best relative financial performance in the Federated Co-op Limited network of 200 Co-ops spread across Western Canada.

This is the second year running that the Tofino Co-op has posted the profitable result, which is percentage based irrespective to size.

For the 2016 and 2015 fiscal year, Tofino Co-op ranked first in local savings (7.1 per cent), first in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization as a percentage of sales—8.6 per cent—and first in net savings as a percentage of sales—9. 4 per cent.

General manager Mike Tomilin said the feat defies the law of economic scale, and is amazing.

“Our Co-op is run by local people that are committed to their community and they make good choices, and it’s paid off,” said Tomilin, who has been at the helm of Tofino’s bustling food store for nearly eight years.

“A lot of members are misinformed; they think the profits from here go elsewhere, like Saskatoon. We don’t work for FCL. FCL works for us. We own them. We have shares in them and all our profits stay right here, absolutely.”

The organization is also debt free, having paid off a $6.8 million loan for a rebuild that occurred in 2008. During Co-op week, October 16-20, Tofino Co-op board members doled out over $700,000 in cash and equity cheques to its members.

Past-president Carol Schulz, who now sits on the board as director of finance and acquisitions, said the Tofino Co-op has tripled their gross sales since 2000.

“In 2000, we were at $7 million. Now, we are at $22 [million]. How many organizations can triple their growth in that amount of time?” said Schulz.

Both Tomilin and Schulz acknowledged that the town’s influx of visitors was a major factor for posting a banner fiscal year, again.

According to Tomilin, 42 per cent of business is attributed to non-members.

“So, we don’t have to pay equity back on that. We want to build a new gas station next year so we can take that money and invest it in our business,” he said.

Schulz elaborated.

“When the environment changes so that a new opportunity presents itself such as tourism, a smart organization should take advantage of that and we have. In fact, we have very much channeled our interests to not only serve our local population, but also to serve the interests of people who come from all over,” she said.

Half of the 60 or so employees hired by the Tofino Co-op are local First Nations.

“I don’t know what we’d do without them,” said Tomilin. “I came from Saskatchewan where you did it all. We are all the same here. Cashier is just as important as an HR manager or board president.”

Chelsea Bauer was hired a year-and-a-half ago as the human resource and safety manager.

She said keeping employees engaged in the workplace is a high priority.

“We have a lot of well-trained people here and I’m working at Ucluelet as well,” Bauer said.

“For me it’s beneficial to train people here or Ucluelet because then we can place them between the two communities, which is nice.”

While Tofino and Ucluelet currently don’t share any staff, Tomilin said the hire was part of being fiscally responsible.

“Most retails our size do not have an HR, health and safety manager, but we have worked with Ucluelet to make it viable for both of us to have this person, otherwise we couldn’t afford it,” he noted.

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