Close to 60 people will lose their jobs in Winnipeg before the end of the month as Price Chopper on Stafford Street closes its doors for good.
Since it acquired the grocery store three years ago, the North West Company says it has been operating at a loss.
"The grocery sector in Winnipeg has become increasingly competitive and the store is non-profitable," Derek Reimer, North West Company's director of business development, told CBC News. "These ongoing losses resulted in the difficult decision to close the store."
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All 60 employees have been given layoff notices, and were offered severance pay and transitional services to help them find other jobs, Reimer said.
"We certainly are thankful to the employees that have worked there over the years," he said. "It's an unfortunate day and we're hopeful that they can transition and find other employment opportunities soon."
'They're closing the best shop in the city'
Known for its deep discounts, the store has been a fixture at Stafford and Pembina for close to 20 years.
"I was literally in shock," customer Tatiana Gajic told CBC News. "This was home. This wasn't a shop. It was home."
Gajic is on disability leave and said she has no idea where she will go when the store closes May 20.
"I can't afford to be at Superstore. I can't afford to buy at Sobeys and Safeway for my food," she said. "I want to tell these people they're closing the best shop in the city. The best people. The best team."
Many seniors frequent the spot and 86-year-old Lana Friesen said it means she won't have a grocery store in walking distance from her home.
"I was just shocked. I couldn't believe it. It's always full," she said. "We need this."
The North West Company told CBC News it plans to open a Giant Tiger discount department store in the location by early 2018.
Bob Jacobs has shopped at Price Chopper since it opened and says Giant Tiger is not a replacement.
"You don't buy groceries at Giant Tiger — at least I don't," he said.
Layoffs part of changing nature of work: expert
This is the latest announcement in a series of job losses to Manitoba's public and private sectors.
On Thursday, Investors Group announced 30 positions in Winnipeg will be axed as part of a company-wide cut of 80 positions across Canada.
Last week, insurance provider Great-West Life announced it's eliminating 450 jobs from its Winnipeg office — part of 1,500 cuts across the country.
Manitoba Hydro said it would lose 900 positions from its workforce through a series of layoffs to upper management and voluntary retirement packages.
- Investors Group cuts 80 jobs countrywide, 30 in Winnipeg
- Great-West Lifeco to lay off 13% of its Canadian workforce
- Manitoba Hydro to shrink workforce by roughly 900 positions
Sean MacDonald, a business strategy instructor at the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business, said the layoffs do not necessarily indicate the province's economy is suffering.
"Most of the layoffs are part of, to some degree, just an evolutionary change in the way in which work is done," MacDonald said.
He suggests Investors Group and Great-West Life can do more work with fewer people because of advancements in technology and automation.
In the case of Price Chopper, he said smaller, independent grocers simply can't compete with the big chains who receive big cost savings because of the amount of product they move.
While job losses will certainly have a devastating impact for individuals, MacDonald said it will likely have little bearing on the unemployment rate.
"I think this is part of just what comes and goes," he said. "For the people involved, it's really difficult … people need to be versatile enough and willing to get new skills in order to adapt to new workforce realities."
Sonia Hosfield has been a loyal Price Chopper customer for as long as she can remember and said her heart goes out to those who are losing their jobs.
"When you hear of people being laid off everywhere in Winnipeg, I'm sad to find we can't resolve that here. It doesn't feel like it's my Winnipeg anymore," she said.