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Canadian Tire expanding by almost half current size
CEO tours hardware store franchise, a dozen new workers to be hired next spring

Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A SportChek franchise and, perhaps, a new gas bar may be coming to Yellowknife, according to Canadian Tire Corporation Ltd. CEO Stephen Wetmore.

NNSL photo/graphic

Canadian Tire employee Jojo Mercado, left, meets with CEO Stephen Wetmore in the housewares department on Saturday morning. Mercado moved to Yellowknife the city of San Fernando, Pampanga, in the Philippines on a Canadian work visa. Wetmore toured the store's ongoing expansion last weekend. - Daron Letts/NNSL photo

Wetmore commented on the possibility of bringing more Canadian Tire-owned businesses North during a visit with management and staff at the Canadian Tire franchise on Old Airport Road on Saturday, amid construction of the store's new expansion.

"We're intending to open up a SportChek store here as soon as we can," Wetmore told Yellowknifer, adding a location is still being scoped out. "I think they'll do very well here."

SportChek, which sells athletic apparel and equipment, is among Canadian Tire's stable of franchises, which also includes Mark's Work Wearhouse.

Wetmore said he plans to look into why Canadian Tire does not yet have a gas bar established in the city, as well.

"We've never opened up a petroleum site (in Yellowknife) and I don't know why," he said.

Wetmore visited Yellowknife this past weekend as part of a prize package purchased by Old Airport Road franchise owner Warren Pariseau at a Jumpstart charity auction held during a dealers' convention in Toronto last spring.

Jumpstart is a Canadian Tire charity that funds the costs of equipment, registration and transportation to help financially-disadvantaged children participate in sports. Wetmore attended the store's 3rd annual duck race at the Yellowknife River on Saturday, which raised $9,000 that is now slated to pay for NWT children to access sports opportunities, Pariseau said

While touring the Yellowknife store, Wetmore met with staff participating in the morning huddle on Saturday and had a tour of the store's emerging expansion. The store is enlarging its retail space by almost half, from 30,000 square feet to 44,000 square feet.

The expansion is expected to take about another eight months.

"It's not just shuffling the deck inside and remerchandising,” Pariseau said. “The building structure itself is growing significantly."

Pariseau added that construction on the exterior of the building should be completed by the end of September.

"It's a bit like playing Tetris at that point," he said. "We're going to be building one area to move down another and at the end of the day the whole flow and continuity of the store will be different."

In January, exterior walls blocking off the new retail spaces at the back of the store and the north side of the store, where the store's semi-enclosed gardening centre used to be, will come down. The automotive department will remain where it is now, but the kitchen wares department will be moved to the front of the store near the entrance and increase to four-times the size. The indoor living department, which includes ready-assembled furnishings, draperies and fireplaces, will also be moved near the front of the store and will be "exponentially bigger."

The firearms and hunting, fishing and camping departments will have more of a "pro-shop feel," Pariseau said, adding the gear will be displayed year-round.

"The exterior will get a complete remake. We'll update the facade and change the signage within the store. It will look and feel brighter and cleaner, for sure," he said, adding the most noticeable change for customers this fall will be that the entrance and exit doors will switch places.

The corporation, which owns the land and property that houses the franchise, is paying for the renovations.

"My investment, personally, will be into additional fixtures and inventory and that sort of thing," Pariseau said.

Staffing will expand following the renovations, as well, said Pariseau, who took over the franchise in January 2008. Currently, the store employs about 55 staff, most of whom work full-time.

"We just have to feel for what we need in the new environment," he said, adding at least a dozen new employees will be hired next spring.

Pariseau said staff will benefit from the new store layout.

"I think it's going to make their jobs a lot easier in terms of how we present our products and how effectively we get all of our inventory from the back door to the floor. At the end of the day it's going to make their lives a lot more efficient and enjoyable, I believe," he said. "We're adding on some warehousing, as well, so we'll be able to have some backroom stock that's more effectively laid out."

The Saturday morning staff earned praise from the company's CEO, who said he was impressed by the look of the Old Airport Road store and the warm greeting he received from the employees.

"I've probably had more people here say 'thank you' and 'I love working at Canadian Tire' than I've come across, probably, at most stores," Wetmore said. "Everybody has a story and they're fascinating to hear."

While Wetmore applauded the store's management and staff, he said Yellowknife customers are the reason the corporation is investing in the location, adding customers here tend to be more loyal and spend about 30 per cent more, on average, per visit.

"It means that they're selling higher-value items in some cases, that the customers are extremely loyal, so when they come in, they buy more at one time, and it's a destination, too," he said. "They sell more per customer and have a loyal customer base, so it's a recipe for success."

While a date for a grand unveiling of the expanded Canadian Tire store has not been set, Pariseau said an event will be planned for spring, probably in April.

Wetmore also met with Premier Bob McLeod and had lunch with the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce during his three-day visit.

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