February 20, 2018

Even if the model itself isn’t new, it arouses curiosity, even admiration for some and, above all, a growing interest! There aren’t (yet!) legions of supermarkets, but when such a business takes root in a city, it quickly becomes a business!

A cooperative supermarket?

The concept could be summarized as: “The supermarket where you’re the hero“! It’s a good synthesis for a cooperative, but also an excellent slogan for the latest cooperative supermarkets, SuperQuinquin, which will celebrate its first birthday on April 1st. Like its predecessors, including Park Slope Food Coop in New York, La Louve Paris or Bees Coop in Brussels, SuperQuinquin already has great ambitions!

And what are those ambitions? On the one hand, for the members of the Lille-based cooperative, regaining control of their food purchases, a major concern in this era of massive industrialization of the food sector. The members of SuperQuinquin, who each paid 100 euros (10 shares of 10 euros) to join the movement, decide collectively and democratically the supply of products on the shelf. And rest assured: SuperQuinquin tries to promote a diet that includes the principles of organic farming, of proximity to the farmer and of product quality.

Another ambition of the SuperQuinquin cooperative is equity! Even as a commercial operation and with profitability imperatives (even in a mutualist context), the organization wants to promote the right price for the 1,200 items placed on its shelves, for both the consumer and the producer. In fact, the profit margin on products offered at SuperQuinquin is limited to 20%, and is essentially used to absorb the running costs of the supermarket. Nothing more, nothing less.

All for one

Prices, it must be said, are generally lower (sometimes up to 40% lower!) Than those in large-scale supermarkets. What’s the secret behind this? The participation of SuperQuinquin members: everyone must give three hours of their time per month, for various tasks. In short, for 180 minutes a month, members become the cashiers, handlers, packagers, to name just a few jobs essential to the smooth running of trade. Multiply three hours by about 700 SuperQuinquin members and you get 2,100 hours less of salary pay! And that’s the secret of low prices of SuperQuinquin.

The ultimate ambition

Though currently a little cramped in its premises of only 300 square meters, SuperQuinquin has a hopeful and enthusiastic outlook on 2020. Ultimately, the cooperative hopes to gather 1,000 members and to deploy its activities on a surface four times as large.

Carrefour, Auchan and the other big names in the food sector can sleep in peace. But for those who long for a sprinkle of solidarity and justice on their plate every night, SuperQuinquin is there!

Article by François Normandin, lecturer, research professional and writer, HEC Montréal.