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Choices Markets aims to get Abbotsford shoppers to buy organic

North Vancouver store to open next spring will compete against Save-On-Foods and Whole Foods

Choices Markets is opening a 15,000-sq.-ft. store in Abbotsford, B.C. October 21. The store, which was previously an IGA, brings Choices' store count to 10. It will be the chain’s third largest store.

Ishkander Ahmed, CEO, says that while Abbotsford wasn’t the chain’s first choice for expansion, he felt they couldn’t pass up an opportunity to locate in an area that is full of young families with an interest in high quality, local food.

Choices typically have a product mix of around 70% organic to 30% traditional foods, says Ahmed, adding that the product offering will be the same that’s found in other Choices’ stores, but that Abbotsford will initially be stocked with more conventional foods as locals get used to the idea of buying organic.

“We look at the demographics of each neighbourhood and see what customers want. If you look at our West 16th store, it’s mostly natural organic,” he says. “Burnaby was an old grocery store when we took it over. People came in wanting the same old conventional food that they had before so we gave them that and slowly over time we converted them to buying natural and organic food.”

READ: Choices Markets grows organically

Andy Arbeo is the store manager for Abbotsford.

The new Abbotsford store follows on the heels of the store’s acquisition of Drive Organics, and the opening of a 20,000-sq.-ft. production and warehouse and 5,000-sq.-ft. grocery store in Burnaby this summer.

Ahmed says Choices wants to grow to 15 stores over the next few years, and plans to open one or two new stores a year starting with a North Vancouver store which will open next year.

“This year we did three stores because the opportunities jumped at us, but we don’t have the scale from the human resources point of view to do that every year,” he says.

Competition is intense in North Vancouver where the chain’s brand new 12,000-sq.-ft. store will open in late spring. Save-on-Foods, Thrifty’s and Loblaw’s City Market are all in close proximity, and a new 40,000-sq.-ft. Whole Foods is planned for 2018.

READ: Choices Markets celebrates 25 years

“As much as we compete with Whole Foods we co-exist in the sense that the pie is big enough for all of us,” says Ahmed, adding that the two brands already duke it out on Vancouver’s Cambie Street quite successfully.

“We tend to be the locally owned family neighbourhood store,” he says. “We have a real family feel to our store and that’s one of the things that set us apart.”

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