Quality Foods plans new Royal Bay store, boosts employee wages

Quality Foods plans to open a new store in Colwood’s Royal Bay development — and make its pandemic pay permanent.

The Qualicum Beach-based grocery chain, which has 12 stores on the Island, including two of its newest in Langford and View Royal, is coming off a record year of revenue growth and is keen to expand in Greater Victoria’s competitive market, says president Noel Hayward.

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The company unveiled plans for Royal Bay at its annual general meeting this week, when it also reported “double-digit growth” and pay raises to its 1,200 employees.

“We are drawing up plans for the new store. We will start construction later this year, with completion in 2022,” said Hayward.

The store will be about 35,000 square feet and offer similar products and services to those offered in the Langford and View Royal stores.

Hayward said the pandemic has generated substantial growth for traditional grocers, as public-health orders keep people closer to home and eating out less.

“People have to understand traditional grocery stores have about 2% growth each year, while over the last 10 years, big-box stores are up 50%,” he said. “Stores like ours keep up with inflation.”

After a year of growth “in the double digits,” Quality Foods is passing some of that on to employees, becoming the first Island-based grocery chain to make its pandemic pay permanent.

The $2-an-hour top-up given to workers back in February and extended in May was scheduled to end over the weekend, but Hayward said it was decided at the company’s annual general meeting that the top-up is here to stay.

He said the extra $2 an hour equates to about a 10% raise, well above the inflation rate.

“There’s a lot of stress and anxiety working in a store, and with the pandemic raging, we felt the right thing to do was make it permanent,” said Hayward.

Unifor, one of Canada’s largest unions, has been calling on all grocery stores to maintain the pandemic premium for workers.

Some stores have continued to pay a premium, extending it for months at a time.

Buy-Low Foods was the first grocery chain to make its pandemic pay premium permanent in May.

Quality Foods is the latest addition to the sprawling Royal Bay development site, which will eventually have about 2,500 homes and several businesses.

Seaspan and the Royal B.C. Museum have already announced intentions to build offices on the site, and Royal Bay Secondary has plans for additions for up to 1,600 students to make it the largest high school on the Island.

Colwood is also pushing the province for a terminal for a commuter ferry to downtown Victoria, and Mayor Rob Martin has pitched the idea of a gondola over Royal Bay to bring passengers from a parking lot to a possible ferry terminal.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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