List of supermarkets
The company was founded by J.W. Sobey in 1907 as a meat delivery business in Stellarton. In 1924 his son Frank convinced him to expand into a full grocery business, serving the industrial Pictou County region. From that point on, Frank was the driving force behind the business. Sobeys opened its first self-serve supermarket in 1949. The chain expanded throughout Atlantic Canada during the second half of the 20th century, where it became the region's dominant grocer.
Sobeys also had significant stakes in New England grocer Hannaford and Quebec grocer Provigo until the 1990s. During the 1980s, Sobeys expanded into southern Ontario, challenging Loblaws on its "home turf", thereby igniting what came to be a nationwide supermarket battle for market supremacy.
In 1998, Sobeys became the second-largest grocer in the country after purchasing the Oshawa Group, owners of the IGA franchise across Canada, along with several regional chains in Ontario, in addition to various food service and wholesale companies. There are currently more than 1,300 stores in 10 provinces and thousands of wholesale customers.
In 2002, Sobeys stores undertook major changes in its appeal, attitude, and feel. This was the introduction of "Ready to Serve". It was highly stressed upon introduction that was not just a new slogan or catch-phrase, but indeed a whole new way of operating. The main focus was to introduce a whole new level of superior customer service. Loblaws had more money and thusly could have bigger stores and slightly lower prices; but, they do not have any high standard of customer service for most of their employees. Therefore, Sobeys decided to forfeit the price/size war in favour of a highly achievable customer service upgrade. Uniforms, which were previously very formal (males were previously required to wear a white dress shirt, black dress pants and shined shoes, as well as a black tie; with the white Sobeys jacket), were then changed to a smart-looking, but more casual attire (green Sobeys jacket or t-shirt over black t-shirt and black jeans with black sneakers or shoes). All signs and advertising were drastically changed to encompass the new superior customer service. The Front-End Manager, who did the majority of customer service was renamed "Customer Experience Manager". Wireless headsets and phones were introduced and every employee is trained to be very customer-oriented. Cashiers are required to greet, converse with, and help out customers to the extent of their ability. Other departments are also required to provide the customer with excellent and friendly service. Also, the logo for Sobeys itself was changed; the four green circles were dropped and the logo simply consists of the word "Sobeys". "Ready to Serve" now stands as part of the logo itself. It should be noted that the four green circles were retained in the Sobeys Inc. corporate logo.
* Some details may vary in different parts of Canada - info based off Newfoundland and Labrador stores and policies.
Sobeys maintains several in-store brands: Compliments*, Big 8, and Smart Choice.
In addition to the Sobeys label, Sobeys Inc. also operates supermarkets under the following banners:
The Sobey conglomerate is grouped under the family-controlled Empire Company, which also owns the Needs Convenience, Kwik-Way, BoniChoix and Knechtel convenience store chains. They are also the owners of the Lawton's Drugs chain in Atlantic Canada along with Empire Theatres, as well as being major commercial retail property owners through subsidiary Crombie Properties. Also, in areas where tobacco sales are prohibited or restricted (such as Newfoundland and Labrador, where any retail store with a pharmacy is now (as of January 1st, 2005) prohibited from selling tobacco), cigarettes and other tobacco products are sold in a separate store, owned and operated by Sobeys Inc., called Griffins.
Recently, Sobeys has been developing a new type of convenience store called Sobeys Express. The stores carry all of the traditional convenience store items but also include a mini deli, mini bakery, as well as fresh produce. Trial locations in Truro, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick were opened in early 2004 but several other locations have opened across Canada since then. The Truro and Moncton stores are conversions of former Needs Convenience stores.
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