This learning journey is part of the project »Pilot Mitmach Supermarkt«.
In mid-November, we spent a few days at one of our role models for MILA Mitmach Supermarkt. We were at the »Coopérative La Louve« in Paris to experience a cooperative supermarket in operation, to work there and to study it for MILA. The first part of our report is about what we experienced on site and the second part about what we learned and our aha moments – part 2
What do we take with us?
Many of the aha moments of us nine different people are similar or the same after we were allowed to explore La Louve for MILA. We have captured the original soundbites on the various aspects here:
“The visit to La Louve was particularly impressive for me because it is living proof that utopias can become reality. The founders have achieved great things: a super market with a super location, assortment and prices. Even during the early shift at 6:00 a.m., the atmosphere was excellent. We were taken very seriously as guests and were introduced to the finer points of supermarket work with the necessary patience and in a very friendly manner“. Victor sums up his impressions.
Focus on the essential
“The work is the social!“ explains Tom Boothe, members often go out for a drink together after their late shift. This revitalises the neighbourhood’s gastronomy and thus the neighbourhood. His tip and part of La Louve’s recipe for success remains particularly impressive in Ulla’s mind: “Above all, I take this statement from Tom with me to Vienna: ‘Concentrate on the supermarket and leave everything else out for now: café and kindergarten.’“ Brigitte also takes this with her for MILA: “To focus on the essentials. Not to be distracted by extra offers that might be nice to have with the supermarket at some point: For example, having our own café or catering and this and that. That’s all nice, if it works out at some point. Clearly keeping the supermarket in focus and not letting yourself be distracted – that’s an important aha experience for me in the building process.“
Relaxed atmosphere and diversity
“It was just great, this relaxed atmosphere, no one shouting: ‘Second checkout please!’, and the unbelievable prices!“ is what Uschi takes away from La Louve. Brigitte felt the same way: “It was an aha-experience for me to see how calm and level-headed and relaxed the cooperation is at La Louve – during that early morning shift it was much more orderly and calm than I would have imagined. – And the assortment: these 6,500 different articles, that’s a number you can’t really imagine, but when you really see how many different kinds of rice there are on the shelves. Or when you see that there are eight or nine different types of pumpkin or twenty or more different types of mustard that taste completely different. You see what 6,500 articles are and what this variety means – you’re not used to that at all!“
Joël also notices this: “One reason for the supermarket’s success that I didn’t expect was that – apart from the social concept and the low prices – they offer particularly good quality in culturally relevant products: For example, they are supplied directly by well-selected cheese producers and bakers.“
No advertising, no discounts and no serving
Anna is surprised by the handling of goods that will soon reach their best-before date or expiry date: “At La Louve, these goods are marked with signs, for example ‘expires in 2 days’, but only to avoid waste. There is no discount on these products – the aim is to avoid “discount shopping“, which means that more and more goods remain on the shelf until the best-before date is reached. So that can then lead to more waste instead of less and would also have a negative impact on the supermarket’s turnover. That was a big aha moment for me!“
Ulla adds: “There are no service counters for delicatessen and no bakery stations à la Resch&Frisch – not at any of the three participatory supermarkets visited so far. And yet, especially at La Louve, a great deli and fresh food offer.“ Beatrice also noticed the following in comparison to shopping in a conventional supermarket: “I found it very pleasant that there is no merchandise at all in the entire checkout area. This prevents impulse purchases of things that no one needs. Instead, there are parking spaces for private shopping trolleys – they simply thought it through: for shopping on foot and by public transport!“
Collaborate: a lot manually on paper
All of us have taken on a shift, because when it comes to doing things, it is especially the how and the details that surprise. Sigrid’s aha experience is: “As a simple member on the shifts, everything happens exclusively manually, without digital devices. Instead, there are very professional instruction cards for the individual activities, as well as a good signage system for the goods logistics.“ David is particularly struck by “the fact that the entire stock level and order preparation for fruit and vegetables is done analogue with handwritten lists!“
Decision-making and co-determination
Those who are responsible must also (be able to) make decisions. The day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the salaried staff. Joël notes that “what I also found exciting was that the supermarket was less democratically organised than I expected. Participation is a strong component, but decisions are mainly made by the employees and the general assembly is only attended by a few members. This makes a lot of things less complicated and is therefore perhaps another reason for success, but I personally dream not only of smart structures for participation, but also of structures for co-decision-making.“
Beatrice’s aha experience is: “The direct co-determination – without discussion! That surprised me: As a member, you want a product, no matter which one, you simply note it down in the suggestion book after your shift or while shopping. If it is listed with one of the existing suppliers, it will soon be on the shelf. Great! And ultimately all members decide directly when they they buy it or not, if it stays in the assortment. I would like to have that at MILA too!“
This report appeared in MILA Mitmach Supermarkt news in late November 2021.