Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit November 08, 2018 - 4:15 pm

Northmart owners say food, other products will get to Iqaluit residents

“Even as we fly food in, we have no plans to raise prices"

SARAH ROGERS
Firefighters continue to water a fire at Northmart's warehouse in Iqaluit, which by mid-afternoon Thursday had been largely destroyed. The company who owns the store says it will distribute its incoming stock among its four convenience stores in the community as well as Iqaluit's other major grocer, Arctic Ventures. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Firefighters continue to water a fire at Northmart's warehouse in Iqaluit, which by mid-afternoon Thursday had been largely destroyed. The company who owns the store says it will distribute its incoming stock among its four convenience stores in the community as well as Iqaluit's other major grocer, Arctic Ventures. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Bread shelves were empty at Arctic Ventures by late Thursday afternoon, but most of the stores' other sections were still well-stocked Nov. 8. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Bread shelves were empty at Arctic Ventures by late Thursday afternoon, but most of the stores' other sections were still well-stocked Nov. 8. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

The North West Co., owner of Iqaluit’s Northmart store, says it’s facing substantial losses following a major fire that destroyed the store’s warehouse facility on Thursday, Nov. 8.

But the company says it intends to keep its shelves stocked in Iqaluit, and all food and other supplies being shipped to Nunavut’s capital will make it to residents.

Iqalungmiut awoke to see a black plume of smoke coming from the community’s major grocery retailer, from a fire that started sometime in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The fire burnt through the store’s warehouse and storage facility, while the adjacent retail store sustained water and smoke damage. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

“In terms of food, we expect substantial losses,” said North West Co.’s president of Canadian retail, Alex Yeo. “But we have to wait to be cleared by the fire marshall before we can go in and assess.”

Some NWC product stored in sea cans on site appears to be undamaged, but Yeo noted that the company has yet to access the site to confirm that.

Amid concerns over food shortages in Iqaluit with one fewer retailer in operation, Yeo said the company plans to get food and other supplies on the shelves of the four Quickstop convenience stores it owns in Iqaluit.

“Whatever we can’t hold, we want to make sure it gets to residents, so we’ll be getting that to Arctic Ventures,” Yeo said, referring to Iqaluit’s other major grocer.

“The goal, in the short-term, is that the food supply isn’t interrupted,” he said, adding that extends to cost as well.

“Even as we fly food in, we have no plans to raise prices.”

As much as possible, NWC will try to re-purpose its four convenience stores, which largely stock non-perishable items, but are equipped with some fridge and freezer space.

Yeo said the company is also looking at other potential locations in the community to either store or sell its products.

Across its five Iqaluit locations—Northmart and the four convenience stores—NWC employees 117 staff. The company plans to meet with local managers tomorrow to discuss its local distribution moving forward.

The Government of Nunavut has offered cold and heated facilities for food storage, if needed.

In a Nov. 8 release, Premier Joe Saviktaaq said the GN’s Department of Health would be helping with the storage of medication and prescriptions that are usually handled at Northmart’s in-house pharmacy, at the Qikiqtani hospital in the interim.

Savikataaq also said the Department of Family Services’ income support clients can have their benefits transferred to another store for the time being. 

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern, who is travelling away from the city this week, said city officials are in touch with retailers in the city to ensure a steady supply of groceries and other merchandise.

“The vast majority of our food is flown in by plane. So retailers are confident that they can continue to maintain the supply,” she said in a phone interview.

“There should not be any panic. This is not a time to hoard.”

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(7) Comments:

#1. Posted by Evelyn Thordarson on November 08, 2018

Oh my goodness I am so sorry to hear of the loss of the North Mart Warehouse this is so tragic but I know that everything will be done to get groceries in this community as with other Nunavut communities everyone will pull together to help out the North Mart.

#2. Posted by Logistics on November 08, 2018

There is no shortage of food in Iqaluit.

Iqaluit’s population is about 8,000 people according to Nunavut Statistics Bureau.

We consume about 5 pounds of food and beverages per person per day, not counting pop, beer and booze.  Add another half pound per person for other supplies such as toilet paper and tooth paste.

That works out to 44,000 pounds per day, or 22 tons per day. Multiply by 365 days per year and we consume 8030 tons per year.  Half of that came in on sea lift and was already here.  That’s 4015 tons of supplies.

Northmart is estimated to sell 60% of the food eaten in Iqaluit.  If we lost their sealift half of that food, we lost 2409 tons of supplies. 

Depending on configuration, a 737 can carry about 40 tons of cargo. 

The reality is Iqaluit will need the equivalent of 60 extra 737 flights during the next year to keep us supplied. That’s slightly more than 1 extra flight each week.

Plus another 100 flights for pop.

Line-ups will be a bit longer at the stores.

#3. Posted by Sanny on November 09, 2018

#2 Your math is off.

Half of it is already here. Are you referring to the people who do their own sealift? The hardest hit by this fire are the poorest in town who could never afford sealift. Elders and those in overcrowded housing dont do sealift.

The owners have already said they have lost 90% of the stores sealift stock as a result of this fire. That will have an impact, in spite of your numbers there.

Your 737 math is also off. You did not account for anything else that comes cargo or that most of northmarts cargo comes on a different plane type. Albeit it’s a bigger airplane but none of the airplanes come with ONLY northmart product on it. At this time of year Amazon and the rest of the mail takes up a huge chunk of that space.

You need to recalculate your numbers, you easily are off by half.

#4. Posted by Okalik on November 09, 2018

#2 let your priviledge speak for you. You are one of those who ran to the store to hoard bread, and milk right?

You tried to show your “intelligence ” by using numbers you picked out of a hat. We just lost a huge warehouse full of dried goods, not to mention they lost their freezer, and storage coolers. You did not account for the retail space required to move that food. That is the biggest factor. They have yet to check out the damage to the store. There has been no power now for 24 hours, anything perishable in the store is now garbage, IF it wasnt already destroyed by smoke and water damage.

Once the store is assessed there is the possisbility the space may not be reopened.

I highly doubt they will fly in building materials at this time of the year.

The reality is that you are talking about something way beyond your knowledge.

#5. Posted by PlaneGuy on November 09, 2018

#2 where can I find one of those 88,000 lbs capacity 737????? First Air’s don’t even lift half of that!!!

#6. Posted by richie rich inuk on November 09, 2018

attitude…other stores will now be… northmart is fini

#7. Posted by Inuk on November 09, 2018

Political advice: what can we do next to prevent this from happening again? Hire a patrolling officer who can work through the night and ensure kids and teens even adults are not roaming the streets.  If you don’t have the money, ask for it - there is money out there.

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