Do you anticipate that your product assortment will be different in any way, or will it mirror that of other T&T locations?
It will largely mirror that of our other stores. But, the reason [we’re announcing this now] is…to open up the channel for local vendors.
Is this approach typical in other markets?
This is different. T&T stores are, in my view, quite complex and it takes time for a new department head or supervisor to learn the ropes and execute our business model. We think it’s going to take more than a year to train someone who doesn’t have any T&T experience to be able to efficiently manage a part of our store.
In Ontario, we don’t need to do that because we can transfer talent from other stores. Quebec is a new province, and we want to be able to hire French speakers. That’s the reason why we’re coming out early, to do recruiting and vendor outreach, even before we are announcing the exact location. We want to make sure the service offering is the best it can possibly be.
You’ve given yourself a bit of a window by saying you hope to open in Montreal within 12 to 24 months. Presumably you’d like to accomplish something on the shorter end of that timetable?
Of course we’d rather open earlier than later, but it all depends on our team’s readiness and recruiting efforts. I really think it’s important to settle the team first, and then we can try to pace our actual opening based on the talent we’ve found and operating a solid store.
Can you talk a little bit about your growth strategy and where you’d like to be let’s say five years from now?
T&T is very opportunistic when it comes to locations—we evaluate each on their own merit as they come up. We’ll grow as the right locations come up. I’m really happy and proud of the team we’ve built, especially over these last couple of tough years. I think we’ve built a solid foundation, enough to position us for growth.
We have the confidence to step into mall locations, where traditionally supermarkets haven’t seen success. Fairview Mall is the most recent announcement, but in October we opened in Willowbrook Shopping Centre in Langley, B.C. We are at Promenade Mall in Thornhill, Ont., we’re in Metro Town Mall in Burnaby, B.C., we’re in West Edmonton Mall, we’re in Lansdowne Centre in Richmond, B.C., so we have a successful track record where we feel there is still a lot of runway for growth for our model. That would likely make us one of the faster growing banners in the country.
We are announcing today our first store in Montreal. Depending on whether the community likes it or not will define how many more stores we can open. I have no idea whether the people of Montreal will actually like what we do, and if they do, there’ll probably be more opportunities.
But haven’t you proven your model at this point? Surely you wouldn’t be doing this if there was a fear of failing.
The best approach for Quebec is a humble one. I do not understand that province very well, so I approach it with some excitement, but also an eager and willing attitude to learn.
Beyond Quebec, are you contemplating expanding further Eastward?
The opportunity East of Quebec has not presented itself. I haven’t spent too much time [thinking about] East of Quebec, because it’s already a pretty tough nut to crack. What you can see…is that T&T is on a roll. I would say we’re growing at a fast clip these days.