Northmart owners say food, other products will get to Iqaluit residents
“Even as we fly food in, we have no plans to raise prices"
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.”