St. Mary’s Grocery Project, Relocating/Rebranding

St. Mary’s Retail Sales (SMRS) Board of Directors voted in a duly convened meeting on May 14, 2024, to begin winding down operations at St. Mary’s Supermarket, which will close on June 30, 2024, following advice from its senior management. This decision was made as a last resort after countless efforts by SMRS to reduce losses. Regrettably, there was no indication of costs being manageable long term. The store operated as a social enterprise for 21 years, offering over 100 career opportunities to residents of Sitansisk and Greater Fredericton at its peak. Using current projections, the store was expecting a deficit exceeding $1 million. In order to provide food security to our community and customers, St. Mary’s Retail Sales will be upgrading the Two Nations One Stop to offer a curated selection of fish, meat, produce, and grocery items.

 

Employees of St. Mary’s Supermarket have been notified of this decision in a meeting prior to the release of this document and will be offered an opportunity to apply for employment at other St. Mary’s Retail Sales enterprises before the supermarket’s closure. In the event an employee is unable to secure one of the positions offered elsewhere, they will be laid off, effective June 30, 2024. Employees who are laid off keep all benefits until June 30 and will receive severance pay on a weekly basis according to SMRS standards. This closure brings no joy to the board or Retail Sales management and was motivated due to two reasons, listed below.

 

Reason One: The grocery market in Canada is currently experiencing record high prices for staple goods supplied to small grocers and other businesses which rely on fair access through supply networks. There are only two major operators of grocery supply networks in New Brunswick, with both offering uncompetitive supply pricing to independent community grocers, which forced St. Mary’s Supermarket to make the impossible choice of charging more to shoppers or face losses. In the leadup to this decision, measures to improve margins such as expanding local offerings and identifying alternative sources for staple products. Unfortunately, many products Canadians look for were only accessible through the two suppliers at uncompetitive prices. The Board of Directors calls on the provincial and federal governments to find legislative solutions to the uncompetitive business practices utilized by the largest players in the market, either through mandating a fair-market rate when selling to smaller vendors, or through a government program to ensure that all Canadian grocers have fair access to suppliers of staple goods.

 

Reason Two: Termination of the Tax Revenue Sharing Agreement (TRSA) by the Province of New Brunswick. The revenues generated from these agreements were directed at ensuring the longevity of the social ventures operated by SMRS and other many other indigenous-owned businesses. With the province’s unilateral termination of these agreements in April of 2021 (extended to January 2023 following the Provincial Government’s defeat in court over the legality of its effort to withdraw in the first half of 2021) SMRS no longer has a means to bankroll such a robust social enterprise. The prospective impacts of these cancellations were made abundantly clear to the Province of New Brunswick during numerous meetings from 2021 to 2023. However, the Provincial Government views the substantial employment and social benefits derived from these agreements as unacceptable. The province instead elected to vilify its Indigenous population, branding them as “super wealthy” while the median household income of indigenous peoples in its borders was barely half that of the median New Brunswick household. The Board of Directors wishes to express its regrets in being unable to make the employment, social, and economic apparent to the provincial government. SMRS will remain open to further discussion with the province, should it deem Indigenous peoples in the province as worthy of career opportunities, or if it begins to recognize the crucial role these types of small businesses play in the local economy. The jobs lost as result of these modifications should be of more importance to Province, as they contributed to the physical, mental, and economic health of the people which make it so great.

 

Thank you to all our employees, customers, and local businesses for helping create the warm, welcoming environment we took pride in for 21 years at St. Mary’s Supermarket,

St. Mary’s Retail Sales Board of Directors