New Westminster soon to be inundated with grocery choices

New Westminster may soon have the distinction of having the most large grocery stores per capita in the Lower Mainland. Wal-Mart has applied to open a new grocery supercentre in its Queensborough store. Thrifty Foods has just been announced as an anchor tenant in Sapperton's coming Brewery District mixed-retail/residential complex next to SkyTrain and Royal Columbian Hospital. A new Safeway is coming to the Plaza 88 development at New Westminster SkyTrain. And of course, the River Market [...]

New Westminster may soon have the distinction of having the most large grocery stores per capita in the Lower Mainland.

The grocery aisle at Wal-Mart. Photo: ratterrell (via Flickr)
The grocery aisle at Wal-Mart. Photo: ratterrell (via Flickr)

Wal-Mart has applied to open a new grocery supercentre in its Queensborough store. Thrifty Foods has just been announced as an anchor tenant in Sapperton’s coming Brewery District mixed-retail/residential complex next to SkyTrain and Royal Columbian Hospital. A new Safeway is coming to the Plaza 88 development at New Westminster SkyTrain. And of course, the River Market will open this summer as a newly food-focused destination with an as-yet-unnamed anchor grocer.

Meanwhile, Save-On just opened last summer up at Sixth & Sixth near the established Safeway in Royal City Centre, and IGA continues to draw Quayside & Downtown shoppers in Columbia Square. Then there’s the Safeway on McBride, big-box stores like PriceSmart, Choices and Superstore in neighbouring Burnaby and Coquitlam, a plethora of small local mom ‘n pop produce shops, specialty bakeries and butchers, and the Royal City Farmers Market.

How many grocery choices does a small city need? New Westminster has gone for so long with only a few megastores, and now suddenly we’re being inundated with them.

Perhaps there’s something we don’t know. I’d love to see the market research behind the decisions to locate new stores here. Big chains like Wal-Mart, Save-On and Thrifty Foods don’t open new locations on a whim.

My hunch: this is one more indication that the pace of change is about to accelerate in this city. Those new condo towers are finally ready to be filled with empty nesters and young professionals priced out of downtown, and the big box stores know it. New West is about to get a lot livelier.

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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11 comments

  1. We do service South Burnaby, commuters, North Surrey, Queensborough, Hamilton etc.

    As much as we Westies would think this is a big box invasion one only needs to hit the Save On Foods to see this is not the case. In the style of our boutique IGA and Uptown Market we like the smaller places. Parking in the “big lot” is not New West and space is already at a premium. This does poise retailers to adopt a typical dense urban flair to their store. Works in Yaletown apparently.

    There has been a keen spike in the specialty condo/loft market in New West and people are willing to live here now that used to mistakenly thick “crack deal” when they thought of New West.

    I’m looking forward to the cinema more actually.

  2. Belinda, I’m with you on that one. As a QB resident, I am praying to the gods of commerce that Walmart does not add on to it’s already excessive blight on this community.

    Hmmm…you could say I feel strongly on this issue, yes.

  3. I’m excited about some of the changes comeing to New West, but had not heard about the grocery store addition to Wal-Mart. I’m also a Queensborough resident and many of us over here are doing our best to support our local grocer, which in this case is PriceSmart in Hamilton.
    I too am looking forward to the movie theatres! It will be wonderful to be able to go to a movie in our own town again!

  4. Makes you wonder what the RiverMarket tenant could possibly be – I think the only ones not represented are Nesters and Whole Foods – but I really don't think the New West demographic would support such an up-market retailer (esp. with a safeway so close).

    SO excited about the upcoming movie theatres though in Plaza 800!!

  5. To Belinda and Dearheart,

    Why do you not want a Walmart grocery story? Are you sick of paying low prices for the basic necessities that you want to rather we don't have more competition and instead have less? I for one have a family to feed and provide for and I welcome the opportunity to buy food at lower prices. Of course for those that think it is a blight perhaps moving to Kits or Marpole is a better choice since they have no big box and high unaffordable prices with stores with little parking.

    My two cents, thanks.

  6. Walmart Lover,

    Perhaps if you did some research on the company's policies and business practices, you would feel differently.

    Walmart is the largest company in the WORLD – with that comes extreme power, which they tend to use for the benefit of the corporation and no-one/nothing else. For example, they put pressure on suppliers and manufacturers to continually reduce their prices year after year. Which means more profit for Walmart and less for the suppliers. In order for the suppliers to keep up with these demands, they must force their manufacturing out of the local market, to Asia or Mexico or India, in order to afford the cost of doing business with Walmart. Which means less jobs in your local community.

    As well, Walmart's insanely low prices (due to their massive buying power) draws people, such as yourself, to purchase from them which, in turn, reduces the amount of business that a local retailer receives. Which, over time, may result in that local business going OUT of business. Which is really bad for competition, wouldn't you say?

    I prefer to spend my hard earned money on LOCAL suppliers that have not made $4.6 BILLION in PROFIT in the last QUARTER of 2009 ALONE. And surely, if they are making this kind of profit, they can afford to pay their staff more than minimum wage and/or provide some medical benefits, don't you think?

    Walmart is non-affectionately known as "The Evil Corporation" in our household and it will remain that way.

  7. Walmart Lover, when a Walmart moves into a community, small businesses close, and the average wage in the region drops. Walmart is an invasive species that has no natural predator, and upsets the local ecosphere to suit it's needs.

    If I had to pick between a bunch of large grocery chains, I try to pick smaller and Canadian. Thrifty's isn't an Island chain anymore – it's owned by Sobey's now – they are headquartered in Nova Scotia.

    Save-On foods is a private Canadian company owned by the Jim Pattison Group.

    Both pay decent wages and have good benefits (Safeway used to be really good, but is now a minimum wage, high-turn-over position for new employees).

    Regardless, I like to walk from my house, and pick up groceries at the local green grocers (mom-and-pop), Galloway's, etc, and of course the backyard garden. We buy our meat once or twice a year from a farmer, and dairy comes from wherever is most convenient.

    And of course the Farmer's Market, as much as possible.

  8. I was going to respond to Walmart lover's post but DearHeart said it clearly. I might add, you think you are getting a deal but it is real a drain on the community. Yes they have low prices but Walmart drives wages down in the community. It is a vicious cycle. Don't be that person who shops at walmart and but complains when there are no interesting shops in your neighbourhood. And really do we need all that stuff.

  9. Even though Thrifty's was bought by Sobeys I still wouldn't call it a 'big chain'. When I left the island Thrifty's was one of the things I missed the most. It wasn't the cheapest store but the quality and the service were more than worth the price. There are still only a couple of locations off the island.

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