Empire Sobeys

Sobeys will close six grocery stores in the Maritimes by July 5. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Sobeys will close the Foodland outlet in Amherst, N.S., and five grocery stores in New Brunswick, as it moves to shut down about four dozen underperforming locations across the country.

A spokesperson for Sobeys Atlantic says the Foodland outlets in Amherst, and in Tracadie, Perth-Andover, Edmundston and Nashwaaksis in New Brunswick will close July 5. The Sobeys in St. Stephen, N.B., will also shut.

“We reviewed our network of stores, as we do, on a market-by-market basis and as a result of that made the decision to close a group of six stores in the Atlantic region that have consistently been underperforming,” said spokesperson Shauna Selig.

The company won’t say how many jobs will be lost. The stores being closed were not meeting sales targets in a competitive regional market, Selig said.

Selig said efforts have been made to find some employees new work within the company; the rest will be given severance.

"The decision to close stores is always difficult and it's never taken lightly," she said. "We think about the impact it has on the customers, the staff and the community."

Sobeys' parent company, Nova Scotia-based Empire Co. Ltd., says it's closing about 50 underperforming Sobeys to improve its net earnings. It says about 60 per cent of the affected stores are in Western Canada.

Empire also says it's increasing its shareholder dividend to 27 cents, up 3.8 per cent, the 19th consecutive year of increase.

Its fourth-quarter adjusted net earnings from continuing operations of $131.3 million, or $1.42 per diluted share, compared with $95.7 million, or $1.40 per diluted share, in the same quarter of last year.

Empire will take a restructuring charge related to the store closures of $169.8 million. Excluding such items, Empire had net earnings of $1.5 million, or two cents per diluted share, compared with $102.5 million, or $1.51 per diluted share, in the same quarter last year.

With files from Canadian Press