L'Éléfàn is a participatory grocery store where customers participate in the operation: each member gives 3 hours of their time per month to keep the cash register, put products on the shelves, etc. This project was born from a common wish coming from consumers to go out of the current distribution system. It started with a joint buying organization and is taking shape today with this "test" grocery store, a real "cooperative" supermarket with a diversity of products and a large number of members (just over 900 in 2019).
The grocery store is self-funded. Memberships are considered as donations and make long-term investments possible, while the annual turnover covers fixed costs and suppliers. The amount of the contribution is free and conscious. Members pay according to their financial means and can also contribute a bit more so that a low-income person can join the association (by paying more than 15 euros of membership).
The fruit and vegetables are fresh and seasonal, either from organic farming or from local sustainable agriculture. There are more and more products in bulk. The beverage department continues to grow with more and more beers from local micro-breweries. The selection of cosmetic products is wide and at a low price with the Avril brand. The shop also sells ecological household products.
Initiated by a small group of people at the start, the grocery store in 2019 has more than 900 members and one employee. Partnerships have been set up with other regional players, such as La Bonne Pioche (grocery store of local products without packaging in Grenoble), in order to carry out joint supplies to pool shipping costs.
The cooperative supermarket also operates thanks to the organization of 6 thematic commissions:
- supply: Its objective is to develop ranges of grocery products, maintain the network of local suppliers, organize departments, direct purchases, inform members (on labeling)
- “numbers and letters”: This is the committee that deals with both day-to-day financial management, but also long-term forecasts …
- management: It exists to ensure that the association is an efficient organization: organization of volunteering, processes, information system, relay between the various committees. The Management commission brings together all the support functions that the association may need.
- Governance: This commission defines the operating rules of the association and ensures their implementation, in order to uphold the philosophy, values and objectives of democracy. It can be consulted at any time on any problem related to the implementation of these operating rules.
- the shop: Organization, arrangement of the shop, minor works, purchase of equipment, etc.
- animation and communication: L’Éléfàn lives thanks to its members! The “anim-co” organizes events throughout the year that give the opportunity to meet and build relationships (festivities, workshops, meetings with producers, etc.). For the communication part, the commission aims to make the project known to as many people as possible and to increase the number of members through the website, social networks, events, etc.
The Little Extra
It is the members who make their supply choices. This allows them to save money while buying local and good quality products. The distribution chain is reduced: it is a direct sale for 70% of the products, thus guaranteeing a correct income for producers.
Written by Flora Douheret, LFC volunteer - October 2018.
Last modification : 11 May 2020.