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Coop Announces 4.5 Percent Rebate, A 28 Percent Rise From Last Year's

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The Coop, which has renovated most of its locations, announced a rebate of 4.5 percent on fiscal year 1998 purchases by its members.

By Kevin R. Lang

The Harvard Cooperative Society announced Thursday that Coop members will receive a 4.5 percent rebate on their purchases this year.

The rebate applies to most purchases made by members in fiscal 1998. The checks will be issued on Oct. 28.

The Coop rebates are up from last year's 3.5 percent because both membership and profits have risen, said Coop President Jeremiah P. Murphy Jr.

"We're pleased with the increase in membership and with it the purchases at The Coop, which have allowed us to give a 28 percent increase in the rebate," Murphy said.

"We hope that members will see that it's worthwhile to shop at The Coop, and the more shopping they do at The Coop the more rebate we'll be able to give in the future."

Murphy expects further membership and sales increases in coming years, as higher rebates yield more members. He added that rebates are driven by how much members spend, and that the company's profit benefits Coop members.

The Coop also has plans to expand into catalog and internet retail. Products not available in stores would be offered over the World Wide Web and through catalogs. Web products will focus on insignia goods, Murphy said.

Restructuring revived rebate

Murphy attributed the return to profitability to the company's restructuring program, which began in 1995. The Coop stopped selling many of the more specialized goods it had previously stocked, and focused more on academic needs.

In addition, The Coop converted from a department store that sells books to a book store that sells student necessities, Murphy said.

In addition, outsourcing and wage cuts were implemented where necessary, Murphy said. The Coop also renovated several of its stores, primarily the Harvard Square branch. These changes, combined with the return of the rebate in 1997, brought in many new members, he said.

Janet Otero, the assistant manager at The Coop in the Student Center, said she noticed a significant increase in customers over a few years ago. However, much of the increase was from non-member customers, she said.

Despite improvements in recent years, students still have complaints about The Coop. Matthew W. Lee '00 said that he would "like to see used textbooks discounted a bit more. Getting $10 or $20 off a beat up $80 textbook just isn't enough."

Students have historically considered The Coop's prices high, but some new students disagree. "I don't think it's overpriced," said Melissa D. Harness '02. "The Coop has everything I need."

However, the distance of the Kendall Square Coop from campus is an inconvenience, she said. That location was renovated in the summer of 1996.

The other major change for 1998 is the new Coop Visa card, which replaced the now-defunct Coop-only credit card. The new Visa card can be used anywhere, and users are eligible for Visa bonuses in addition to Coop rebates.

From 1994 to 1996, The Coop gave out no rebates, as it lost money each year. Rebates return Coop profits to members. The rebates peaked near 10 percent in the 1980s.

However, The Coop had started selling items of increased variety as Coop members requested them. As recently as a few years ago, the store sold tailored clothing and women's shoes. By the mid-1990s, The Coop could not compete with more specialized retailers, Murphy said.