Many years ago I passed up an opportunity to bag groceries at Safeway, but I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve shopped at one. There are 213 Safeway stores in western Canada, but a year from now that name may be hard to find in places like Regina and Winnipeg.
Sobeys may be hanging their brand on some of those stores. Empire Co. Ltd, based in Nova Scotia, is the owner of Sobeys and they want to buy most of those Safeways in a deal worth more than five and a half billion dollars. They will have to get approval of some sort from Ottawa because fewer players means less competition does it not? Instead of bagging groceries, I was learning that in Economics 101.
Many of us cherish the memories of a simpler time when our daily bread and other essentials could be purchased no more than a block from where we lived. In both Regina and Winnipeg, I had the good fortune to live close enough to a store that I could bring home a week’s groceries without firing up the car. I could use my daughter’s wagon in the summer, and a toboggan in the winter. The folks who ran the store knew all of us by name, including the dog who was tied up on the sidewalk.
Both cities are trying to encourage more people to live downtown, but there’s a problem. The big supermarket chains, like Sobeys and Safeway and Loblaws have written off innercity neighbourhoods. They’re closing smaller stores because they just don’t generate enough profit.
Without a vehicle, shopping for groceries has become very difficult. Here’s a wish that will likely never be fulfilled. The competition regulators should allow Sobeys to gobble Safeway, but only if they promise to provide service to the innercity, even if it means doing so at a loss.
A crazy idea? Probably, but maybe it’s one whose time has come.
I’m Roger Currie