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Sobeys, Inc. yesterday debuted a brand-new discount grocery concept in the form of eight FreshCo stores in Brampton and Mississauga, Ontario. The new concept, developed after extensive research and six to nine months of planning, features a re-engineered store design and a superior product assortment tailored to each surrounding community, so that shoppers “don’t [have to] sacrifice quality for price,” as company president and CEO Bill McEwan put it in a conference call marking the openings.
“FreshCo is simply discount done right,” noted McEwan. “Featuring low, low prices without all the usual deep-discount store trade-offs, FreshCo offers customers a larger selection of quality products in a refreshingly different, modern and clean environment that is not typical of discount grocery stores.”
“Customers have consistently told us that they are tired of having to make the compromises normally associated with shopping at ordinary discount stores. FreshCo is about not having to make those compromises,” added FreshCo general manager Rob Adams. “Our FreshCo promise of ‘Fresher. Cheaper.’ really says it all.”
The 30,000-square-foot store layout welcomes shoppers into a “Fresh Hall” piled high with produce, and then presents them with a large variety of local baked goods supplied daily by community bakeries. Customers subsequently encounter a large selection of Ontario cheeses and meats, before moving on to a feature aisle offering special savings on everyday items.
Among the items available at FreshCo are an expanded selection of meats and produce, fresh seasonal Ontario fruits and vegetables, locally manufactured products and assortments customized to each individual store to reflect the multicultural character of the market. Along with products catering to such prominent ethnic groups in Ontario as South Asians, including 4 to 8 feet of halal meats, traditional sweet goods and breads, and a relevant dairy set, the chain carries special dietary and health-conscious foods not normally found at discount grocery stores, among them gluten- and lactose-free items.
“FreshCo devotes more space than traditional discounters to fresh product, including local produce, baked goods, cheeses and a two-tier selection of Ontario meats,” observed Adams. “We understand that today’s discount shopper wants a great selection of fresh.”
Adams noted in yesterday’s conference call that product assortments would be flexible, according to the requirements of particular stores and customer requests, but that one constant was the banner’s resolve to be “adamant on great pricing.” He further characterized the store experience as a “fun, exciting shop” where customers could find everything they needed.
During the call, McEwan and Adams emphasized that the FreshCo concept was specifically developed for Ontario, which is Canada’s most competitive retail landscape, as well as the one with the most discount stores, accounting for a hefty 40 percent of the market.
In “rethinking what discount should mean” in the province, McEwan said yesterday that Sobeys decided to create a whole new concept, rather modify its existing Price Chopper format. The four Mississauga and four Brampton stores are all conversions from Price Chopper locations, but McEwan noted that the company planned to expand “at a reasonably rapid pace” through both conversions and ground-up locations in the coming months and years.
Although McEwan said that “dozens” of Ontario Price Chopper stores would be converted to the new format, he stopped short of saying all of them would become FreshCo locations. However, he stressed that FreshCo wasn’t “a niche concept, but a broad-based concept.”
At the present time, FreshCo stores will open only in Ontario, according to McEwan. Sobeys has four operating regions across Canada.
A wholly owned subsidiary of Empire Co., Ltd., Stellaron, Nova Scotia-based Sobeys owns or franchises over 1,300 stores in all 10 Canadian provinces under such banners as Sobeys, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, Price Chopper, Thrifty Foods and Lawtons Drug Stores.