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Local produce retailer caught in competitive Penticton grocery market

A loyal customer is surprised to find the Old Town Farmers Market in Penticton had closed its doors last week.
July 08, 2015 - 10:30 AM

PENTICTON - Penticton lost another small business last week, just as seasonal farm producers begin looking for local outlets.

The Old Town Farm Market, located at 104-2100 Main St., closed its doors July 1.

Market owner Dave (Doc) Willoughby says the rise of big box stores made the location uneconomic. He says the store got 'tons of support' from the city’s elderly residents, but 'moms and young families' were going to the big box stores.

“There is a lot of new competition in town, and it seems like people in Penticton are really excited about it. Stores like Superstore and Walmart are getting a lot of support from people in Penticton. I think it’s because stores like that are new and people think its nice to have a one-stop shop, but eventually its going to hurt the independents,” he says.

He says sales dropped by half when Superstore opened up in 2013. The store was 'quite viable,' but after struggling to keep going the last few years, Willoughby decided to close this month when his lease came up for renewal.

Closing the store at this time was disappointing because local, fresh produce was just starting to come on the market. Willoughby says his store was all about supplying locally grown fruit and produce. 

He notes the younger customers were good for the store, because they didn’t mind spending. Elderly consumers tended to shop for single items, purchasing daily needs, and because many were on fixed incomes, had to be careful what they spent their money on.

“They supported our store a lot. It’s just the nature of the business, if it’s not viable, there’s no reason to stay open,” Willoughby says.

“We’re disappointed, because that was our top store before Superstore opened in Penticton,” he adds, noting two other Old Town Farm Markets remain open in Kelowna and Kamloops.

Penticton’s Old Town Farm Market was originally relocated from Prince George, where it had been doing well until Walmart opened there, Willoughby says, noting it was history repeating itself in Penticton, five years later.

“That’s business. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” he says. “We’re frustrated by the whole thing, because we had such a loyal following with seniors in Penticton. It’s going to affect a lot of those people, because they don’t want to go to Real Canadian Superstore, they don’t want to go to Walmart. They don’t want to have to walk all over those stores just to buy a few items. It’s not a good experience for them.”

Penticton’s grocery store landscape has undergone some pricey makeovers since 2012, beginning with the $6.5-million renovation of the old Zeller’s store into a Superstore, located just behind the Old Town Farm Market in 2012-2013. Around the same time, a $7-million addition to Walmart to make room for grocery aisles to its store on Green Avenue took place. Last year, Save on Foods completed a $2.45-million facelift to their store at Cherry Lane Mall, according to City of Penticton building permit statistics.

Loblaw Companies, owners of Superstore, said in a CBC Business News report earlier this year, competition in the Canadian grocery industry has reached 'historical highs' that are expected to remain in the foreseeable future.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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