The world’s largest private employer officially re-opened its P.A. store as a supercentre on Friday, offering customers greatly expanded store volume with a wider selection of products.
“By going into a Walmart supercentre, what we’ve done is we’ve added meat, deli, seafood, we’ve added produce and we’ve added a bakery,” store manager Chris Beblow said. “And with that we’ve expanded our grocery side, our paper and chemical, our dairy and frozen.”
After a special ribbon-cutting ceremony at the store with local officials and media at 7 a.m., doors opened to the public an hour later. Friday’s focus was customer orientation, with staff concentrating on helping people find different products in the store.
On Saturday, the P.A. Walmart will hold a special promotional event called the Block Party inside the store between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“We’re going to have some vendors onsite … It’s about driving customers into the store and having our vendors participate with that customer,” Beblow said.
“They’re going to be offering free samples and trying out some products and so on and so forth. Great little event for the family and friends to come on down, check out your new Walmart and at the same time being able to try out some new products as well in the market.”
The rebirth of the P.A. Walmart as a supercentre was seven months in the making. During that construction period, the store added 75 new jobs to the community, bringing its total workforce to a grand total of 325 employees.
The store received more than 200 applications for the new positions, a remarkable figure that was achieved through relentless promotion.
“We did a lot of advertising, whether it be through the paper (or) through radio,” Beblow said. “We did a little billboard on the front of the street. We did two job fairs that were quite successful. One catered more to (the) general public, the other catered to more of the high school students, so that was pretty exciting.”
By going into a Walmart supercentre, what we’ve done is we’ve added meat, deli, seafood, we’ve added produce and we’ve added a bakery. - Chris Beblow
The enlarged P.A. Walmart is still looking to fill an additional 50 positions, ranging from associates to cashiers to night work.
Conversion of the local Walmart into a 159,000-square-foot supercentre – one of 13 such conversions taking place across Canada -- is part of a larger push for expansion by Walmart Canada, which currently has 73 ongoing projects.
While the intention is to turn Walmart into the ultimate one-stop shopping centre, the Prince Albert store faces heavy competition in the grocery market. A recent Daily Herald report noted that P.A. residents enjoy the lowest food prices in the province due to an overabundance of grocery stores in the city.
Beblow, who moved to Prince Albert from British Columbia four months ago, appeared unfazed by the competition.
“Ultimately, I think there’s enough to go around,” he said. “When you look at (the) population of Prince Albert, you look at approximately 44,000 people, and then you look up north, 72,000-plus … Everybody tells me this is the Gateway to the North, and I really can see that.
“We have so many folks from all over the place coming shopping and it doesn’t matter if you’re at my store, another store, they’re just as busy and it’s exciting all around. I think our customers that are loyal to us, that come to shop with us, we’re able to offer them those groceries now so they don’t have to go elsewhere.
“It gives them, once again, that one-stop shop feel.”