By Laura Keil
Amid staff and food shortages, Valemount’s IGA has further reduced its operating hours to 6 days a week 12pm-8pm, but its parent company says they have hired a new assistant manager and are raising wages to help stabilize the store.
Mark McCurdy, VP Retail Operations for Georgia Main Food Group, says the ongoing dairy and produce shortages at the Valemount store are due to a variety of factors and began last summer when refrigeration equipment broke down. He also blamed the atmospheric river event that closed the Coquihalla and slowed deliveries in November and December.
But he says the biggest challenge continues to be staffing.
“The store is seriously under-staffed and current staff can only do so much,” he says. “Staffing has been a challenge in this store for many years – something that the previous owner dealt with as well.”
He says the produce department has not had a manager for over a year and due to staff challenges some orders did not get done or missed delivery windows.
“As stated in our open letter we did make some mistakes.”
The challenge with hiring hasn’t only been lack of applicants – housing has also been a problem.
“We have had several excited and qualified applicants who have failed entirely at finding housing for themselves or for their families and have had to pass on the offers.”
He says they have advertised the Valemount positions throughout Alberta and northern BC and will be implementing a new hourly rate and incentive for store employees this month.
He says the entire town of Valemount is struggling with labour shortages, a factor many chalk up to the pipeline soaking up available rentals and providing higher paying jobs.
Since early spring, a group of local retirees has taken it upon themselves to form a “stock day” team, to help unload trucks at IGA. Those involved say it has been a rewarding experience to help the community, get some exercise, and for the positive social interactions.
When asked if IGA would consider selling the Valemount franchise to a local buyer if one came forward, he says they are always open to ideas in the future but nothing is planned currently.