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Grocer Sobeys Opens North America’s 1st ‘Flex Store’: Interview/Photos

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Grocery giant Sobeys continues to roll out its national renovation program to redesign stores across the country.

One of the latest is the company’s location in Orangeville, Ontario.

“Our newly redesigned store concept boasts refreshed design, décor and a completely reinvented store experience,” said Mark Holly, SVP Real Estate & Construction, Sobeys Inc.

“Customers who visit our newly renovated Sobeys Orangeville store in Ontario will immediately notice that all departments have enjoyed a major refresh featuring new offerings including a dry-aged meat section, InFarm fresh herb live walls, new Rachelle-Bery health and wellness departments, and an expanded ready-to-eat food section. The newly redesigned departments also feature modern, sleek overhead canopies throughout the store.”

Image: Sobeys Orangeville
Image: Sobeys Orangeville

Sobeys is a wholly-owned subsidiary under Empire Company Limited which is headquartered in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. With approximately $28.5 billion in annualized sales and $15.9 billion in assets, Empire and its subsidiaries, franchisees and affiliates employ approximately 134,000 people. Besides Sobeys, its brands also include IGA, Safeway, Farm Boy, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods and Foodland.

Mark Holly

Holly shared that Empire launched Project Horizon in July 2020, which included plans for major investments in Empire’s store network.

“Since then, Empire has accelerated investment in physical assets, through renovations and conversions. While Sobeys Orangeville is the first store to be fitted with these particular flexible fixtures, the overall look and feel of this store can be experienced by customers at an additional 12 existing Sobeys and Safeway locations across Canada, all of which are part of our national renovation program.”

“While we cannot confirm exact future locations just yet, you can expect many refreshed stores throughout our network in the coming years. Currently, our modern, refreshed décor can be seen in 13 Sobeys and Safeway stores across the country, including Sobeys Queen St. and Sobeys Mumford Road in Halifax.”

Image: Sobeys Orangeville
Image: Sobeys Orangeville

Last year, Empire unveiled its Project Horizon, which is a three-year growth strategy for core business expansion and e-commerce acceleration.

Growth in market share is expected from supporting and investing further in the store network, improving store productivity, scaling up grocery e-commerce, growing the private label portfolio, continuing the Western discount business expansion, and increasing the Farm Boy footprint in Ontario, said the company at the time.

“The Company will accelerate investment in physical assets, through renovations and conversions, and store processes, communications, training, technology and tools. This will provide Empire’s store teammates with further capabilities and tools to better serve customers. Towards the end of the last three years, re-investment in Empire stores was a key priority. These investments, coupled with powerful refreshed brand marketing strategies, have been successful with strong returns. These priorities, along with the expansion of the FreshCo and Farm Boy banners, are reflected in the Company’s estimates of future capital spending, averaging $700 million annually over the next three years,” he said.

“Improving sales per square foot is the crucial engine for long term market share growth. During Project Sunrise, the Company built the foundation of its advanced analytics capabilities. Analytics will drive improvements in every customer facing element, including store footprints, customer promotions and availability of product on shelf. With Category Resets complete, the Company is able to further improve the customer experience by leveraging advanced analytics, to tailor its assortment to store formats and optimize product adjacencies.”

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 is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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