Quebec hit hardest as Lowe's plans to close 34 stores across Canada
As of next February, 'underperforming' stores will be closed in 6 provinces
Hardware store chain Lowe's announced Wednesday a major restructuring that will shutter 34 of its stores across the country.
It is not known how many employees will be affected by the decision.
Lowe's currently owns 67 stores in Canada, as well as 21 Réno-Dépôt stores and just over 400 Rona outlets, in addition to 100 stores under other banners.
More than a third of the closures are in Quebec, where 12 stores are affected. Nine stores will be closed in Ontario, six in Alberta, three in Nova Scotia, three in British Columbia, and one in Saskatchewan.
In a statement, Lowe's Canada interim president Tony Cioffi said the affected stores were "underperforming," and that the closures were a "necessary step" to ensure the long-term viability of the business.
This decision comes a month after 60 accounting jobs were cut at the company's Quebec headquarters in Boucherville.
Last November, the company closed 31 stores across the country.
Workers may be transferred
Claude Brunet, a part-time employee at one of the affected Rona locations in Saint-Sauveur, told Radio-Canada that workers were emotional when they learned of the cuts Tuesday.
"There's lots of families that are affected, several people were crying," he said. "Some people have worked here for 20, 30 years."
The vast majority of the workers affected are not unionized, said Antonio Filato, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 500, which represents workers in two of the stores in Quebec.
He said he wasn't surprised to hear the news.
Filato said that one of the stores impacted, the Réno-Dépôt in Trois-Rivières, "never" had enough business to sustain itself.
"[There's] all this talk about how we shouldn't be selling our Quebec companies," he said, "but if we want to keep our Quebec companies in Quebec or in Canada, we have to shop there."
Quebec politicians 'disappointed'
Lowe's, an American company, bought Quebec-based Rona for $3.2 billion in 2016.
At the time, the Liberal government faced severe criticism from the opposition for letting one of Quebec's flagship companies to be sold to an American competitor.
On Wednesday, Quebec Premier François Legault described the situation as "unfortunate," and decried the previous government's decision to allow the sale of Rona to Lowe's.
He said that the provincial government had "no guarantees" from Lowe's regarding retaining jobs.
Pierre Fitzgibbon, the province's economy minister, said he wants to look into helping Quebec-based businesses break into the online market without the use of multinationals.
"Should we get our Quebec Amazon? Should we allow our domestic and national retailers, who are too small to go to Amazon, have a structure where they can interact on an e-trade basis?" he asked.
"I think there's a merit to consider that."