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Big box grocery stores on P.E.I. hiring to try and keep up with demand

Gary Bowness, produce clerk at the Atlantic Superstore on University and Belvedere avenues in Charlottetown, stocks the shelves with bananas. The Superstore, like most of the big-box grocery stores, is looking to hire additional employees to keep up with the increasing demand.
Gary Bowness, produce clerk at the Atlantic Superstore on University and Belvedere avenues in Charlottetown, stocks the shelves with bananas. The Superstore, like most of the big-box grocery stores, is looking to hire additional employees to keep up with the increasing demand. - Dave Stewart


CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — At a time when layoffs are skyrocketing everywhere, the big grocery stores are heading in the other direction.

Big-box stores such as Loblaws, Sobeys and Walmart are looking for help in an effort to keep up with unprecedented demand for food in the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic.

Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs with the Atlantic Superstore chain of stores. - LinkedIn Photo
Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs with the Atlantic Superstore chain of stores. - LinkedIn Photo

Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs with the Atlantic Superstore chain of stores, said they have seen a trend during the past few weeks of current employees who don’t want to work because they are self-quarantining or simply don’t feel safe working in a grocery store in the present environment.

“We’re not going to penalize those people," Boudreau told The Guardian in a telephone interview.

“We want to keep them as employees but, in the meantime, our stores are really busy and there’s (been) a huge shift in shopping patterns for our customers."

Boudreau said they were looking to hire up to 15 employees for each of the four P.E.I. stores — two in Charlottetown as well as at the Summerside and Montague locations.

Boudreau added its parent company, Loblaws Companies Ltd., was also looking to hire up to five people for each of the Shoppers Drug Mart locations in the province and up to five people at No Frills in Stratford.

Boudreau said online orders for Atlantic Superstore quadrupled in March. Filling online orders is more labour intensive because it takes time getting a person’s order right, “making sure you’re picking the best quality of meat, the best of the fruits and vegetables and there’s training that goes into that so we definitely have a need (to hire more people)".

Loblaws is looking mainly for temporary and part-time staff, helping out people who have either temporarily lost their jobs due to the pandemic or their place of work is closed.

Boudreau said they would like to see people stay around, in one way or another, once things get back to normal.

“If they want to continue on (with us), say, on the weekends or part-time we would encourage that. We’re investing some time in training and they’re probably developing some relationships ... so we want to be mindful that maybe it’s something that they want to continue to do."

Gary Bowness, produce clerk at the Atlantic Superstore on University and Belvedere avenues in Charlottetown, stocks the shelves with bananas. The Superstore, like most of the big-box grocery stores, is looking to hire additional employees to keep up with the increasing demand. - Dave Stewart
Gary Bowness, produce clerk at the Atlantic Superstore on University and Belvedere avenues in Charlottetown, stocks the shelves with bananas. The Superstore, like most of the big-box grocery stores, is looking to hire additional employees to keep up with the increasing demand. - Dave Stewart

Felicia Fefer, manager of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada, told The Guardian it was aiming to hire 10,000 new store and warehouse associates. The national chain had received more than 13,000 applications.

"Our two P.E.I. Walmart stores are looking to hire front-end, customer experience and fulfillment associates," Fefer said.

"Our Charlottetown store is also hiring grocery pickers for online grocery pickup orders."

People can apply online.

No one from Sobeys immediately got back to The Guardian. However, Empire Company Ltd., which owns Sobeys, Safeway and FreshCo, said recently it was looking to hire people who already have experience in the service industry.

The Financial Post reported Empire was looking to relieve pressure on its front-line staff by hiring people laid off from Cineplex Inc. and Freshii Inc. restaurants.


Twitter.com/DveStewart

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