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T&T Supermarkets Plans More Locations Amid Expansion: CEO Interview

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T&T Supermarkets continues to expand its footprint in Canada despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

WILLOWBROOK AND DEERFOOT MEADOWS SET TO HOUSE T&T’S NEWEST LOCATIONS

The largest Asian supermarket chain in Canada plans to open a new store this winter at Deerfoot Meadows in Calgary and another new store in mid 2021 in Langley, B.C. in the Willowbrook Shopping Centre, moving into an old Toys R Us space.

The company, which currently has 26 locations in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, plans further expansion in the future.

“Certainly these two stores are not the end of the story,” said Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarkets. “We have been aggressively growing prior to these stores and we will continue to look for new opportunities. Pre-COVID we opened four stores within 12 months and we definitely were heads down when it came down to managing the business throughout COVID. We continue to be focused on our store expansion plan and there’s definitely still a lot of runway.

RENDERING OF T&T SUPERMARKET AT WILLOWBROOK SHOPPING CENTRE. RENDERING: WILLOWBROOK SHOPPING CENTRE
MAP OF WILLOWBROOK SHOPPING CENTRE. IMAGE: WILLOWBROOK SHOPPING CENTRE

“There’s lots of communities across the country that I can see T&T being successful in the community and would welcome a T&T there. So we’re very much eyes open on opportunities. We certainly invite developers and landlords to reach out to us if they have a potential site. What’s unique about us is that we’re fairly nimble and flexible when it comes to store size but we also have to be very picky. It’s a new world now. We have to be smart about where we are. Like all the traditional site selection criteria still applies to T&T but also we really have to work very closely with our landlords or developers to make sure that it financially works for all parties and that we can bring a safe shopping environment to the communities that we open stores in.”

Lee said the company’s average store is about 40,000 square feet. Its largest is 74,000 square feet — an old Target space and its flagship store — in Richmond, B.C. Accessibility and parking are key considerations as are street visibility and loading.

The company’s first store was in 1993 which was started by Tina’s mother in Burnaby, B.C.

“Today we’re part of the Loblaw family but we still operate it. It was started by my mother and she retired in 2014 and passed on the reins to me,” said Lee.

“She was a new immigrant from Taiwan and it was really hard back in the 90s to do a full shop of Asian groceries in Vancouver. The go to place was Chinatown but you really couldn’t find everything under one roof. You had to go to the butcher shop and then the bakery shop and then the seafood shop. And it was raining all the time in Vancouver with very limited parking. So she said gosh we really need something all under one roof. Wouldn’t that just be great?”

The first store was opened deep in the basement of Metrotown Mall. One month later the second store opened in President Plaza in Richmond, B.C.

CLICK FOR INTERACTIVE MAP

“She gave it a try. She was part-time working, part-time housewife. But it was really something Chinese Canadians needed at the time. Customers gave us a lot of patience to learn the ropes, get it right. I really attribute the success of the business to my mother being a mother and being acutely aware of what customers needed and wanted in solving their daily problems on great food in one clean comfortable great shopping experience,” said Lee.

Both the new Calgary and Langley locations will also offer customers the convenience of online ordering for store pick up, and fresh express delivery to home at www.tntsupermarket.com. Customers can also shop online and have dry groceries shipped to any location in Canada. Together, the two stores will create more than 400 jobs in their communities.

“We are one of the few retailers that are continuing on an aggressive expansion plan,” said Lee.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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