Pollock’s Hardware co-op members vote to keep Winnipeg institution open

By | February 16, 2019

Pollock’s Hardware has dodged another bullet.

Members of the 97-year-old Winnipeg hardware store voted Saturday to reject the co-op board’s recommendation to shut down the business over financial woes.

On Feb. 6, the board told members in a letter the business was no longer economically viable, in part because of competition from retail giants. All but one member of the board resigned following Saturday’s vote, and an interim board was elected to keep the store afloat.

“I’m relieved, but there’s a lot of work to be done, and that’s just starting. But obviously I’m really grateful that everyone’s put in over the last 10 days,” said Raina Loxley, a co-op member who campaigned in favour of keeping the shop open.

“It’s really nice to see the community come together like that … we’re all just trying to see what’s best for Pollock’s happen.”

It isn’t the first time the Main Street location has been on the brink of closing. It was saved by the community 11 years ago and converted into a co-op.

A second Pollock’s Hardware location in South Osborne was closed last March.

Financial troubles

The now-former board noted the co-op has lasted twice as long as most small businesses do in today’s market. Amazon and other retail giants eating into the hardware market have changed the game, the board said in its letter to members.

“The last decade of Pollock’s Hardware has been an act of resistance — resistance to a globalized and automated economy that doesn’t value local neighbourhoods or the social capital they contain,” the letter read.

“Although it is tempting to want to fight on, to struggle to the last dollar, we must realize that our decisions have consequences. Our staff need to be paid, the government requires source deductions and we have suppliers who have provided product or services in good faith.”

While the former board said Pollock’s has put $1.5 million into the local economy since re-forming as a co-op, it also noted the store posted significant annual losses for six straight years totalling $220,366 — losing anywhere between $76,199 in 2016 and $22,888 in 2018.

Sales at the Main Street location were down 24 per cent last year and 12 per cent in 2017, according to the former board.

‘A team effort’

Loxley, who was one of seven members elected to the new eight-person board Saturday, said she’s confident the business can turn things around with help from the community and the co-op’s roughly 3,500 members.

“It’s a co-operative and I think that represents a lot of really important things for people in terms of fighting off the influence of big-box stores and capitalism,” she said.

The interim board will hold its first meeting within the next couple of days to begin hashing out its next steps, said Loxley.

Some of the ideas discussed Saturday include improving marketing and re-branding the business as a destination, said Loxley.

She said the board will also consider starting a subscription program for the store that would see members pay ahead of time for credit that would be applied to their account.

“They would have the opportunity to spend that money throughout the year but that would help us with cash flow up front,” she said.

“It would also really encourage members to come in to the store because if they know they have a credit there it would put us top of mind as to where to shop.

“This is for sure a team effort and it takes a community to keep a place like this going.”

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