A novel Internet agreement between Quebec’s main farming union and Sobeys is a win-win-win situation for the partners and consumers across the province, says an official with the Canadian retailer. “This project benefits everyone,” says Alain Dumas, director of Public Affairs and Communications for Sobeys Québec.
Under the terms of the agreement, which was announced at the annual meeting of the Union des producteurs agricole (UPA) in Quebec City in early December, Quebecers will be able to order more than 250 non-perishable food items online, beginning in late February, from Marché de Chez Nous, a small specialty-food boutique located at the UPA’s headquarters in the Montreal region.
The orders will then be filled and shipped via Sobeys’ seven food distribution centres to the IGA store closest to the consumer for pick up. Sobeys-Québec supplies goods and services to 252 IGA stores across Quebec and some 1,300 other independent retailers operating under a half-dozen banners.
According to Dumas, planning for the new on-line shopping project with Quebec producers began in 2004 following a visit by Sobeys officials to the Marché de Chez Nous. Opened a year earlier, the store stocked hundreds of specialty food items known as “produits de terroir” – high-quality jams, syrup, cheeses, meats and alcohol made by mostly small agricultural producers from all regions of Quebec.
“We were impressed by the number of items they had,” recalls Dumas. The problem, he adds, was that while most locally owned IGA stores were eager to sell such products, they simply couldn’t carry them all in their inventory – provided sufficient quantities were even available from artisan producers. As the first banner to begin offering on-line shopping in Quebec in 1996, Dumas said Sobeys “started thinking about a model that would help us get these goods to our stores – and voilà!”
Though some kinks in logistics and delivery still need to be ironed out, Dumas believes the new model is an exciting initiative for consumers and retailers alike. “Our customers are discovering new goods,” he said, “and we are learning an exhilarating new way of doing business.”