TOUR OF INDUSTRY SERIES: It’s about location for Thrifty Foods

Grocery chain’s distribution centre in North Saanich keeps delivery costs competitive

Bob Cool

When you roll open the big doors of industry on the Saanich Peninsula, what you find there can be surprising.

That’s the goal of the annual Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Tour of Industry, which held its fourth such tour at the end of October. There were five main businesses on the tour, with additional stops at VIH Aviation Group and the Mary Winspear Centre.

The tours are held as a way of introducing these industry players to community leaders. The visits, while brief, provide insight into the value each business brings to the Peninsula and the issues they face in achieving success.

And at times, when the interiors of these businesses are revealed to people normally on the outside, there is plenty to see and to learn.

The first stop was Thrifty Foods’ distribution centre in North Saanich. Manager of retail support centres (Victoria) Bob Cool led a group on the tour through the floor-to-ceiling rows of produce and foodstuffs that are collected here and eventually distributed to the company’s network of grocery stores on the Island.

“I’m a cost centre,” Cool said of the operation. “I’m supposed to be efficient as I can.”

That, he continued, means following a streamlined operation of shipping and receiving that uses the latest technology to keep track of where each item is, how long it has been in transit and its shelf-life. The centre, to ensure safety for the consumer, follows strict industry-wide regulations and is audited in-house and by a third party to ensure the checks and balances are being followed.

Cool said Thrifty Foods (now Sobeys) chose to set up the centre on the Peninsula because of its location. It costs distributors the same to ship products to North Saanich as it would to ship it to the lower mainland. The cost savings comes in eliminating the extra step across the Salish Sea.

That distribution brings an estimated 75,000 to 80,000 produce cases to the centre each week, which are in turn delivered five to seven times per week to Island grocery stores.

It’s a streamlined operation, run by 120 dedicated employees.

Looking behind the CUBE

In the next Penunsula News Review, the Tour of Industry series continues with CUBE Global Storage.

This Victoria-based company offers high-security services to customers from around the globe.

While pictures were forbidden in its Victoria offices, their story is one that might surprise you.