SASKATOON – A day after another grocery store in Saskatoon’s core announced plans to close, a food expert from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) weighed in on the challenges facing small stores. The Good Food Junction cited three years of insufficient sales, a challenging industry and a highly competitive marketplace in its announcement Thursday.
The Shop Easy in Saskatoon’s City Park neighbourhood closed in early November, following many unprofitable years.
“You look downtown and there’s no access to food,” said Michael Nickerson, a lead researcher with the U of S Global Institute for Food Security.
The process is cyclical – large chains move to suburban areas where space is more affordable. Small grocery stores in core areas have to raise prices to counteract high rent, he added.
Eventually, they’re forced to close.
“They have to make a profit to be sustainable, right? Space in the downtown urban core is pricey, right? These large stores can make a lot more profit outside,” Nickerson said.
Reducing food transportation costs, raising income and improving social programs could help, he said.
Members of a new cooperative are hoping their bi-weekly downtown pop-up market will evolve into a community-owned grocery store.
“It’d be fantastic. I think that’s what we’re ultimately building towards. I think it is more than feasible and I think it’s badly needed right now,” said Robert Englebert, member of the City Centre Food Cooperative.
Consumers are also contending with the rising cost of groceries. The Food Price Report released in December predicted the cost of food in Canada will outpace inflation in 2016.
The average Canadian household would pay an addition $345 per year for groceries, according to the report.
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