July 24, 2013 - 5:00 AM
LOCAL PRODUCE STORE CONSIDERS EFFECTS OF WALMART'S FRESH FOODS
KAMLOOPS - A local produce manager is wondering the impact on his store now that Walmart will be stocking fresh produce in it's aisles come Friday.
"I can imagine that it can only affect us negatively," said Mike Frye, store manager of the Old Town Farm Market in Sahali.
The Thompson-Okanagan business began in Kelowna in 2004, expanding to Kamloops in 2006 as well as Penticton. Frye said the Kamloops location, less than two kilometres from Walmart, stocks about 75 to 80 per cent of the fruit from B.C. and 50 per cent of the vegetables from B.C.
"Customers come here simply for produce," he said. "(They) would potentially want to go to Walmart to get everything."
Walmart got the go ahead for the expansion last year, investing millions of dollars into the Sahali location. It is also expanding it's services to provide fresh meat.
As Walmart moves into the fresh food market, Kamloops city councillor Donovan Cavers didn't feel a need for Walmart to expand.
He voted against the expansion, along with councillor Nancy Bepple, following a public consultation on the matter.
Cavers said one of the reasons for his voting direction was the saturation of grocery stores already in the area.
Cavers adds that the Kamloops Farmer's Market is busier than ever because 'the product speaks for itself.'
"It gets crazy, crazy busy," he said.
Cavers supplies his business, Conscientious Catering, with food from the Farmer's Market and doesn't intend on shopping at Walmart for produce anytime soon.
"Their business model is to monopolize the market," he said. "It forces small, local businesses to reduce to the cheapest mode of business to compete with them."
Frye, however, is hopeful as he remembers a similar situation in Penticton when the Superstore opened.
"I know that the Penticton store took a pretty major hit to start," he said. "But now I know it's come back in sales."
Frye believes people ultimately chose quality over convenience.
"Quality is really important here," he said. "We try and keep the freshest produce possible."
He added that some customers even shop at Old Town just to get away from the buzz and 'overwhelming atmosphere' of box stores.
"I hope we have enough loyal customers," he said.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013