LOCAL EDITORIAL: Dark days at Safeway in Courtenay
These are difficult days for employees at the Safeway in Courtenay.
Working for a company that suddenly has a new owner is unsettling, as people at Thrifty Foods learned when the Island grocer was purchased by Sobeys in 2007.
Workers at Safeway learned in June that Nova Scotia-based Sobeys had agreed to buy Safeway's 213 Canadian stores for $5.8 billion.
Learning the new owner will close your store is a bigger shock.
Earlier this month, Sobeys announced it will close the Safeway store in Courtenay on May 10. The store, which has operated in the Comox Valley for 75 years, has 120 employees — 50 full-time and 70 part-time.
With its 75 new Safeway locations in B.C. and as well as existing IGA and Thrifty Foods brands, Sobeys will have 107 grocery outlets in this province.
That is more than the 101 for Overwaitea Food Group, 84 Loblaws, 25 Walmarts and 14 Costcos. To prevent undue concentration of ownership, the Competition Bureau ordered Sobeys Inc. to sell 23 stores in Western Canada before it would approve the Safeway purchase.
The Courtenay store wasn’t on that list with three Greater Victoria stores and two on the Lower Mainland. Apparently it was on another list.
One issue for Sobeys, which succinctly cited financial viability for the decision to close Safeway in Courtenay, is that it already had one Thrifty location downtown, then it opened a new one at Ryan and Lerwick. Three stores in a market this size compete against each other.
The local grocery war intensified when Costco came to the market and Walmart added a significant grocery component. People buying food in the Comox Valley have plenty of choice.
Just don’t tell that to the people who liked shopping at Safeway, who appreciate Air Miles points and who have developed a friendly relationship with Safeway staff.
Don’t tell it to the people who are losing their jobs. Don’t tell it to Safeway employees who love the Comox Valley, but who will have to leave to find work.