Winnipeg is getting a new player in the grocery game.
Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) has bought four Safeway stores from Sobeys, including those located at:
- 1441 Main St. (at Polson Avenue)
- Southdale Centre, 77 Vermillion Rd.
- Grant Park Shopping Centre, 1120 Grant Ave.
- St. Vital Shopping Centre, 850 Dakota St.
Sobeys was required to sell 23 stores across the country as part of an agreement with the Competition Bureau after its purchase of Canada Safeway last year.
The transaction is expected to close by the end of March and the transfer of operations for individual locations will be phased in between mid-April and the end of May.
Approximately 1,300 employees work at the stores involved in the transfer and will continue to be employed at each of the respective locations, FCL stated in a news release.
“We understand that this transition involves change for employees and customers. We look forward to getting to know you better and will work hard to earn your trust and business,” FCL CEO Scott Banda stated in a news release.
Red River Co-op looking forward to taking over stores
Red River Co-op General Manager Doug Wiebe, who will oversee management of the Manitoba stores, said the company has been looking at the Winnipeg market for some time, but building from the ground up didn't make financial sense.
"One store at a time would probably be a very difficult proposition," he said. "So the fact that we were able to come into this market with four stores, three with very significant volume, really was appealing to us."
Wiebe said the Co-op stores will not offer Air Miles, but, like the company's gas stations, will have payouts to members.
He said signs for the new stores will start appearing in mid-April, around the same time Co-op products start showing up on shelves. He hopes it will be a smooth transition, but said there will be some challenges.
"I think that we'd be foolish to say that there won't be any," he said. "If we can turn these stores around overnight, that would be great. But we may be down for a day, possibly two, depending on the magnitude of the change."
Shoppers digesting the changes
Margaret Augustyn, who's shopped at the Safeway on Main Street for years is unhappy to hear the store will become a Co-op.
"It's just the memory of it," she said. "Seeing this change, I feel sorry."
But her mother, Regina Michalak, who's been shopping there even longer, said it's no big deal.
"A store is store," she said. "You have to go, and buy and pay. [It's] not for free," she laughed.
Workers, union, relieved
The union that represents Safeway employees said it's a relief to know the 1,300 jobs are safe.
"It's a good day," said Jeff Traeger, with the United Food and Commercial Workers.
He also said Co-op has agreed to keep wages, pensions and benefits the same. Services such as the pharmacy, deli and floral departments will continue to be part of the new stores.
"After months and months of uncertainty, these people now know that their jobs are protected. They now know who their employer is," he said.
Other changes yet to come
Sobeys has also signed a deal to sell its Price Chopper location in Winnipeg to another, unidentified buyer. But that sale has not yet been approved by the Competition Bureau.
The Price Chopper is located in Stafford Square, 677 Stafford St. at Pembina Highway.