Jeff Traeger, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Canada Local 832, which represents Extra Foods workers in Thompson, said April 28 "the concessions on wages, pensions and benefits that Extra Foods was asking for in order to keep the store open was far too great.
"Our members were being asked to give up most of their compensation package so that Extra Foods could make even more money. We are currently hoping to work with Canada Safeway to see if there is any opportunity for our Extra foods members to work at their store in Thompson once the Extra Foods closes."
Craig Ware, director of corporate affairs in Western Canada for Loblaw in Calgary, said April 27 the reason Extra Foods in Thompson is closing June 23 is "that this location is no longer economically viable to operate.
"I can assure you that the decision to close this store was not taken lightly," Ware said. "A wide variety of possible options were considered and discussions were held with the local union, unfortunately however an agreement was unable to be reached. While we are disappointed to be closing this store, the decision is not a reflection on the colleagues from that store. They have been committed to serving the people of Thompson for many years and we are working through a transition plan for them."
Extra Foods hourly-rated employees are represented by United Food & Commercial Workers Canada Local 832, which also represents non-management employees at Safeway here in a separate bargaining unit.
Extra Foods is joining the growing list of national retailers pulling out of Thompson since last September. The Thompson Plaza grocery store, the anchor tenant of Western Canada's oldest enclosed mall, will close its doors June 23.
It is the fourth national chain to exit Thompson since last September.
Mayor Tim Johnston touched upon the subject very briefly at the end of his mayor's report to city council at their April 23 meeting, mentioning it for a total of 26 seconds – seven minutes and 16 seconds into his seven-minute and 42-second report. Johnston said he learned of the "potential" of Extra Foods closing late Monday afternoon, just hours before the council meeting.
"That did come as a surprise and I'm extremely concerned," Johnston told council.
It will be the first time Loblaw Companies Ltd., the Brampton, Ont.-based corporate owner of Extra Foods and a subsidiary of George Weston Limited of Toronto, hasn't operated in Thompson since the opening of the Thompson Plaza on Nov. 2, 1961.
Loblaw closed its Extra Foods store in Flin Flon last Oct. 15 resulting in the loss of 45 jobs, including 17 full-time positions.
Ware said, "As Loblaw does not own the building site, I can't comment on what the future plans for this building may be ... we still do operate a store in The Pas and currently there are no plans to make any changes in that market."
For many years the Thompson Plaza grocery store operated as a Shop Easy Foods and OK Economy supermarket, two of Loblaw's current and former regional and market segment banners in different areas across the country. Other Loblaw banners besides Extra Foods and Shop Easy Foods include No Frills, Valu-Mart, Real Canadian Superstore, Provigo, SaveEasy, Fortinos, Zehrs Markets, Dominion, Red & White Food Stores, Atlantic Superstore, SuperValu, Lucky Dollar Foods, Freshmart, Maxi and Your Independent Grocer.
Loblaw, the largest food retailer in Canada, was started in Toronto in June 1919 by Toronto grocers Theodore Pringle Loblaw and J. Milton Cork. Bread salesman George Weston started George Weston Limited, also in Toronto, in 1882.
The very idea for Thompson Plaza, in fact, belonged to E.D. Cooper of Shop Easy Foods, who had discussed it with Capital Developments Ltd. Marlowe-Yeoman of Vancouver, a company co-founded in 1963 by John B. Lansdell, of Lacombe, Alta., owns Thompson Plaza.
The first commercial tenants of Thompson Plaza included branches of the Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), a T. Eaton Co. or Eaton's outlet, Simpson–Sears, CESM-TV, CHTM-Radio, Cochrane-Dunlop Hardware, Bata Shoes, F. W. Woolworth Company or Woolworth's, Shop Easy Foods, Plaza Pharmacy, owned by Florian Soble, and McKinnon Jewellers.
Thompson took a major hit on the retail front four months ago when Staples and Rogers Plus both closed their doors here last December.
Debra MacDonald, Staples' Winnipeg-based regional vice-president for Central Canada, told the Thompson Citizen last Sept. 16 Staples did not consider leasing at any another location in Thompson once its initial five-year lease expired. It opened its 15,000-sq.ft-plus store at 69 Thompson Dr. N. Jan. 27, 2007, replacing the vacant Surplus Army, Airforce, Navy (SAAN) store in the location. Staples itself, as a corporate entity, is financially quite healthy and profitable. Office supplies are seen as a solid indicator of underlying business trends, and Staple's retail in North America is doing quite well in a competitive landscape.
The Rogers Plus corporate store in the Burntwood Plaza, across the street on Selkirk Avenue from where Blockbuster was in Thompson Plaza was closed because the company faces tough challenges and lots of competition from multiple sources for consumers' entertainment dollars, and not just from Netflix, Leigh-Ann Popek senior manager for media relations for Rogers Communications Inc. in Toronto, said in an interview last Dec. 5.
Blockbuster's store here had good enough revenues that when 146 stores, accounting for approximately 35 per cent of the company's stores in Canada, were closed last June 18, Thompson wasn't among them. But on Aug. 31, 2011 Blockbuster announced that no buyer could be found for the remaining 253 Canadian Blockbuster stores that were acceptable to the court-appointed bankruptcy receiver, and that it would wind down operations at the rest of the stores by last Dec. 31. The Thompson Blockbuster closed last September.
- with a file from Matt Durnan