Empire's FreshCo banner headed to Saskatchewan

Discount banner will replace underperforming Safeway locations in Saskatoon and Regina

Saskatchewan will be home to four FreshCo stores next year. Owner Empire is converting four underperforming Safeway locations to the FreshCo discount banner its expanding in Western Canada.

The new stores--located at Regent Park (Regina), Confederation (Saskatoon), 33rd Street (Saskatoon), and Market Mall Saskatoon--are expected to open in summer 2020. These are the first FreshCo locations in the province.

In a press release announcing the store openings, the company said combined closure costs are around $6 million and will be expensed in the first quarter of fiscal 2020.

In 2017, Empire said it would convert up to 25% of its Safeway and Sobeys stores to the discount banner over a five year period. With these four locations in Saskatchewan, Empire has now confirmed 22 of approximately 65 locations in the West.

FreshCo mades its debut in Western Canada in April with branding and a consumer experience that were piloted at four locations in London, Ont. customer feedback,” Empire CEO president and CEO Michael Medline told analysts during a conference call in December.

The plan to gain market share through discount offerings in Western Canada comes just as the company is starting to regain its footing after a period of losing ground to competitors following its acquisition of Safeway in 2013 for $5.8 billion.

Empire upset Safeway shoppers after it cancelled a popular loyalty program, failed to keep certain items in stock and made other significant missteps. Same-store sales plunged as customers turned to other chains.


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