Nfld. & Labrador

Entire town will feel effects of Rona closure, says Bay Roberts mayor

Mayor Philip Wood wrote a letter to Lowe's, saying Rona closure will have huge impact.

Town will lose nearly 40 jobs, mayor says

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood says his entire community will feel it when Rona shuts down in January. (CBC)

The town of Bay Roberts will take a hit due to the loss of about 40 jobs when the local Rona store closes in January, says Philip Wood, the town's mayor.

But the effects don't stop there, he says: those people and their families will then spend less in the community and may even move away in search of work elsewhere. 

"Something like this affects the entire economy," he told the St. John's Morning Show, noting that he thinks there are 35 full-time and five or six part-time jobs on the chopping block.

For a community of 7,100, according to the 2016 Canadian census, that's a big blow, he said — especially around Christmas time.

Some Rona employees found out at meetings at the O'Leary Avenue store in St. John's Sunday night. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Employees at six Rona stores across Newfoundland were called to last-minute meetings on Sunday where they were told the stores would be closing on Jan. 27, 2019, and they'd all be losing their jobs. Two independently owned Rona stores — one in Fortune and one in Wabush, Labdrador — will stay open.

Wood says he found out on Twitter on Sunday night after CBC broke the news.

"I put out a few direct messages and no one, it seems, knew anything about this," he said. 

He said he got a note on Monday morning from Lowe's, in response to an email he'd sent them, confirming that the Bay Roberts location would be closing and that the closures were the "right path for the organization's future."

Lowe's Companies Inc. said it plans to close 51 stores, including 31 in Canada, as part of plan to focus on its most profitable locations. (Alan Diaz/Associated Press)

He's now sent another letter to Lowe's, detailing the impact the move will have on the community and asking them to consider whether the company's "right path" includes a stop in Bay Roberts.

"We would welcome them talking to the town," he said. 

But as significant as the consequences will be in the community, he said, the community's hearts are with the employees who will be without work at the start of the new year.

"It's a small community, everyone knows everyone, and I think the first reaction of everybody is for the employees themselves."

Impact extends to builders and contractors

The Rona closures will be felt by some builders and contractors in Newfoundland, according to Victoria Belbin, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders' Association in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Rona was a source of credit for some contractors, lending money up front for some projects and builds.

Belbin said that practice was more common in the past, in particular during the years of the oil boom, and that their absence as a lender won't be as profound as it may have been.

"We have a different industry today," she told media at an association meeting Monday held to address the news about Rona.

Victoria Belbin is the CEO of the Canadian Home Builders' Association in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Gary Locke/CBC)

The biggest loss for builders, she said, will be the business relationships. Rona came to the province in 2006, when the Quebec company purchased Chester Dawe Ltd., a Newfoundland business.

"The name has changed, but a lot of the people haven't through the years," Belbin said.

Builders and contractors in the province built their businesses on the relationships they had with those people at Chester Dawe and then Rona, she said.

"Yep, there is going to be a transition time for these businesses, but I'm sure that they'll be fine."

The store closures in Newfoundland are part of a sweep of closures of "under performing" Rona stores across Canada and the U.S, according to a statement from Lowe's sent Monday.

That Lowe's considered all of the Rona stores it owned in the province to be "under performing" is not an indication that building or contracting is struggling, Belbin insisted.

"It's depending on what their definition of 'under performing' is. I know that there are millions of dollars in sales that are happening ... I wouldn't consider them under performing, there's definitely going to space for our other supplier companies to step into that market."

With files from Jamie Fitzpatrick

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