Six Safeway stores in B.C. are being converted into FreshCo outlets, including stores in Williams Lake and 100 Mile.
Employees in Williams Lake were made aware of the change Tuesday, June 4, just hours before a representative from Sobeys Incorporated issued a news release to media via email.
“We are working with employees and unions to ensure the terms of their collective agreements are met as we work through this transition. As always, we will expend every effort to place employees in other stores within our store network in B.C.,” stated the news release.
Jacquelin Weatherbee, director of external communications at Sobeys, said Thursday all Safeway employees impacted by the change were spoken to one-on-one and given four options moving forward; they can choose to exercise bumping rights into other Safeway locations, accept a volunteer severance, accept a volunteer severance and work at the new store, or maintain their status and work at the new store.
“Managing (the staff) respectfully and responsibly is really important to us,” Weatherbee said, noting the exact number of employees affected by the conversion won’t be known until employees have made their decisions.
Both Safeway and Freshco brands are owned by Sobeys, a subsidiary of Nova Scotia-based Empire Co. Ltd., which has opened five FreshCo brand stores in Western Canada since April.
The move will see the latest stores close for a four-to-five-month period for renovations and construction under the new discount banner.
Safeway 100 Mile House is scheduled to close for renovation on October 5, 2019, while Safeway Williams Lake is planned to close for renovation on November 23, 2019 along with Safeway stores in Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon and Powell River.
Weatherbee confirmed there won’t be an in-store bakery or deli at the new FreshCo store in Williams Lake as there currently is at Safeway, however, she said the new store will offer a wide selection of deli and bakery products. Also, the Starbucks inside Safeway will permanently close when Safeway closes in November. For those who collect Airmiles, customers will not have that option at the new FreshCo store either.
That being said, the FreshCo brand does have many advantages for customers, Weatherbee noted.
“We will always offer the lowest price,” she said, adding the store has a double fresh, in-store guarantee.
Customers in other locations are also pleased with the fresh produce and appealing layout of the store, Weatherbee added.
“It’s a very easy to shop grocery store.”
Another advantage, she said, is that the FreshCo in Williams Lake will be a franchise store and locally-owned, although those details have yet to be determined.
“It’s a really unique advantage to the store.”
Weatherby said the conversion will not impact its pharmacy customers and it will continue to operate a temporary pharmacy location while renovations and construction are underway. There will be no interruption in patient care or customer files.
As the 100 Mile location does not currently have a pharmacy department, no pharmacy will open for this store.
Weatherbee said the FreshCo brand is committed to providing its customers the freshest foods at great prices, and added customers can expect access to fresh food items and produce, plus a great variety of multicultural foods.
“Our customers are excited about our International foods (selections). This is something we do well,” Weatherbee said.
The FreshCo in Williams Lake is slated to open Spring 2020.