Commentary with Geoff deGannes
Downtown Amherst has been left with yet another empty space to fill in its commercial landscape. In its wisdom, the corporate movers and shakers at Sobey’s decided recently the Foodland Store in the downtown core is one of 50 across the country that is “underperforming.”
In an age of takeovers, mergers and acquisitions, the decisions made in the boardrooms seem to be more in the interests of the shareholders than they are the front line employees and the consumer. Many may have been surprised that the company would close a facility it just spent over a million dollars renovating, but that is a mere pittance considering Sobey’s parent company Empire has just spent $5.8 billion on the acquisition of rival Safeway Canada.
Sadly, the corporate giants like Sobeys, whose prosperity grew from its Nova Scotia roots, seems to have lost sight of its earlier days when the family-run business felt some sense of social responsibility in this region. Instead, a group of dedicated employees in small town Nova Scotia is expendable because some marketing gurus in the corporate chain-of-command have determined that this particular operation is not living up to the company’s expectations. What that exactly means has never been adequately explained.
It is indeed a devastating blow to the 26 faithful employees of the store who I must say always went above and beyond the call of duty to deliver superb customer service. Sobey’s is losing some valued employees who were certainly a credit to their employer.
The loss of the store is a particular blow to the community’s senior’s population, many of whom are on fixed incomes and were within walking distance of Foodland. As a representative with the poverty action group Empowering Beyond Barriers, Veronica Richards pointed out last week, the loss of the downtown grocer will present new challenges for those living on fixed incomes, without vehicles or have mobility issues
While there are community supports in place to assist those who have been displaced from their jobs, we know job prospects are limited in our current economic climate. Ideally, an entrepreneur with an interest in establishing a grocery outlet will come forward to fill that void. Unfortunately, just when downtown Amherst was showing signs of vibrancy, this latest closure is a major economic setback that the Town of Amherst can ill afford.
Geoff deGannes is a past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.