What You Get by Subscribing to the Columinate Compensation Database

What You Get by Subscribing to the Columinate Compensation Database

  |  June 13, 2022

Last year, we launched a newly improved Columinate Compensation Database to help stores and co-ops more efficiently navigate the often complex HR landscape.

“I’m hiring a new department manager and am not sure what similarly sized stores are paying that role.” “I’m negotiating a pay raise for an existing staff member.” “Am I being fairly compensated as a general manager?”

The Columinate Compensation Database is the fastest, easiest way to understand compensation practices at similarly sized stores and benchmark with your peers. Plus, National Co+op Grocers (NCG) members receive free access to the Columinate Compensation Database and Job Board as part of their membership.

Here is what subscribing to the database offers if you are a general manager (GM) of a co-op or independent store:

  • You can see how your compensation compares to your peers.

  • You can set your own parameters for the size of the sample.

  • Your total compensation will appear as a percentile of the sample you choose, once you answer questions about base salary, contingent pay, and deferred compensation.

Below is a sample from 18 retail stores in the $4 million to $6 million sales range with the blue bar representing the compensation of the GM querying the database. 

GM Total Compensation


There’s much more in the database. After GMs enter their own compensation, they can then enter salary information for other management positions at their business, choosing from a list of more than thirty positions.  For example, seen below are average salaries for marketing managers of multi-person marketing departments.

Mktg Manager Total CompensationUnderstanding and Setting Pay Rates

What other co-ops and independents are paying is only one factor. You need to consider your local labor market as well. If your business is located in an area with exceptionally high living costs, you may need to pay your department managers more than other co-ops and independents in your sample.

Notwithstanding local labor conditions, when GMs need to fill a management position, they tend to call each other to find out what they pay (as I often heard when interviewing co-op general managers for the Gender Equity Project). The Columinate Compensation Database makes that information quickly and easily accessible to all participating organizations.

Who Can Use the Database?

General managers are the primary users of the database, but they can designate a secondary user, typically their human resources manager. Access to general manager compensation remains limited to primary users (GMs) only. This allows GMs to keep their compensation information confidential within their own organizations if they wish to. NCG members receive free access to the Columinate Compensation Database.  

A designated secondary user can enter and update the compensation information for all other management positions.

Gathering Data for the Future

When entering their data, a GM is asked a series of questions about their organization:

  • annual sales volume
  • year incorporated
  • number of business units
  • number of employees
  • starting hourly pay rate for entry-level employees

The GMs are also asked how long they’ve served in their position, whether they were internal or external hires, and how they identify in terms of race and gender, including a non-binary option. With the data now being collected, we’ll be able to release reports from time to time, answering questions such as:

  • What is the ratio between lowest and highest paid within co-op and independent grocers? (In fact, we recently answered this question.)
  • How great is the interval between the GM’s pay and that of the next-highest-paid employee?
  • Are externally hired managers paid more than those promoted from within?
  • Are more recently hired GMs earning more than long-time GMs?
  • Do managers of businesses with multiple locations earn more than those of single locations?
  • Are startup co-ops paying as much as more established ones?
  • Is the gender gap in co-op GM compensation closing or getting wider? (Here’s a progress report.)

It may take several years before there are enough GMs who identify as people of color and/or non-binary to track equity while guarding individuals’ anonymity.

Accessing the Database

The Columinate Compensation Database is available to NCG member co-ops for free. Small co-ops, non-NCG co-ops, and INFRA member natural independent retailers can gain access for an annual subscription of $275. To subscribe or learn more, click here. NCG members receive free access to the Columinate Compensation Database and Columinate Job Board. Members will receive an email with an activation link.

With the support of the community of co-ops and independents that subscribe to the database, Columinate may be able to add requested features in future upgrades. Your questions and comments are welcome at compensation@columinate.coop.



About the Author

Carolee Colter

Human Resources for Boards &...


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