Are you thinking of setting up a coop like FareShares? Unless you have commercial premises available to you already, the best way to initiate something similar at the moment is by setting up a buying club.
What follows is a list of what we have learned in our combined experiences. Please do write to us if you have experienced something different.
– somewhere with easy access to big lorries so they can unload without blocking the traffic.
– safe storage space from where the buyers pick the goods up if they can not be there at the time of the delivery
– reliable way of handling cash or bank transfers.
– a previously established way of dealing with delivery mistakes and out-of-date food, especially if you’re going to deal with fresh produce.
– admin skills.
– Information Technology (email and spreadsheets) skills are not essential but they save hours of work.
Storage space is vital. No matter how well you co-ordinate your shopping with other people, you will probably find yourself with a whole month’s worth of supply. Also depending on the amount of people who join the group and how big your orders are, it is unlikely that you will order any more often than once a month.
Delivery mistakes are rare but do happen, and returning unwanted goods is an altogether additional process.
Depending on whereabouts you are based, you will want to contact a different organic food suppliers. Some send us an excell spreadsheet with produce availability, which we fill with our order. Some have paper catalogues and some have online catalogues too. Most have a minimum order established as a condition for delivery, normally around £200-£300, amount which is calculated ex-vat.
We get the bulk of our dry goods from two suppliers, both workers’ co-operatives, who deliver all over the UK: InfinityFoods and Suma. They have paper and online catalogues, which they change regularly with updated prices, although these do not tend to change dramatically.
The decision on what supplier you choose usually comes down to:
– where they are based (food miles)
– which one is most helpful
– which one has most of the products you need
Once you have arranged with them the conditions of delivery and payment, you will need to keep track of each person’s order, how much each person should be paying you, how much you will need to pay the supplier, and what products, if any, are missing from the eventual delivery.
This is where a good spreadsheet helps a great deal. If you need a recommendation, try LibreOffice