The North West Company is expanding its Nunavut presence, opening convenience stores in five communities and purchasing the Kitnuna Pharmacy in Cambridge Bay from the Kitikmeot Corporation.
The QuickStop convenience stores are based on a new model of prefabricated ATCO trailers, delivered by sealift.
"We completely outfitted the stores before they went on the barge," said Chris Santschi, vice-president of sales and operations for Northern Canada retail.
The first new Quickstop was set to open this past Saturday in Iglulik. Pond Inlet's opening is scheduled for Oct. 3, Naujaat's is targetted for Oct. 5 and Gjoa Haven's is expected to open on Oct. 7. The convenience store in Cape Dorset is due to arrive on the final sealift in late October, meaning QuickStop sales there will likely begin in early November, said Santschi.
The convenience stores will bring increased shopping hours for customers, as the QuickStops open earlier than the NorthMart and Northern grocery stores, and close later. Exact hours will vary by community, he noted.
It won't mean a mark-up in prices, however.
"In all five of these locations, we made a decision to keep the pricing exactly the same as our main store," he said, adding that the convenience stores will offer staples like bread, milk, eggs, baby formula, diapers and snacks.
The QuickStops will result in the equivalent of one or two new full-time positions in each community, but because many of the jobs will be part-time, it will translate into six to 10 new hires per location, he said. The North West Company is already one of Nunavut's largest private employers with close to 800 workers.
All of the convenience stores will be situated in locations that are a considerable distance from the grocery stores. Those stores have been in place for several decades and the communities have grown away from them, Santschi said. In consultations with the communities, residents expressed a desire for different sites in hopes of shorter walks to and from, he added.
Additional QuickStop locations in other Nunavut communities are a possibility in 2019, he said.
The North West Company's acquisition of the Kitnuna Pharmacy, announced Sept. 17, will lead to a new location adjacent to the Northern store with an aim to open by Oct. 15. Existing employees will be retained and professional services for conditions like diabetes and smoking cessation will be expanded, the company stated. Kitnuna is the North West Company's fifth drug store in Nunavut.
In choosing to sell the pharmacy, the Kitikmeot Corporation was already facing an imminent change in the ownership of the business as partner Super Thrifty Pharmacy had announce its intentions to divest its holdings in Kitnuna, according to John Stevenson, the Kitikmeot Corporation's chief operating officer.
"It made perfect sense for us to exit that space. We had an opportunity to sell and it was at fair market value and we just felt it was timely," said Stevenson.