Loblaw Buys Asian Supermarket
By Tom Ryan
Loblaw Companies Ltd., Canada’s largest food distributor, last week acquired
T&T Supermarket Inc., the country’s largest Asian food retailer, in a deal
worth $225 million. Founded in 1993, T&T operates 17 stores in the provinces
of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
Averaging between 35,000 to 45,000 square feet, most T&T stores have an in-house bakery, an Asian deli, sushi and Chinese barbeque counters, as well as the many departments found in a regular supermarket. T&T is a joint venture of Uni-President Enterprises Corp., one of Taiwan’s 10 largest
conglomerates; Tawa Supermarkets, which owns the 99 Ranch Asian supermarket chain in California; as well as Canadian investors.
“T&T’s talented management team and colleagues have developed what we believe
are the best Asian stores in Canada, which will be used to help Loblaw extend
its ethnic offering to better serve Canada’s largest growing consumer segment,” Galen
Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw, said in a statement. Loblaw has more than
1,000 corporate and franchised stores across Canada, including Loblaws, Zehrs,
Fortinos and Real Canadian Superstore.
Cindy Lee, CEO and founder of T&T Supermarket, told the Vancouver Sun, that the acquisition will help the company grow.
“For the company to expand in the future, we have to plant deeper roots,” said Ms. Lee. “To
do this, we must get our products to more Canadian consumers. There are only
two ways: Either we bring these mainstream consumers into our stores, or
we put our products into their aisles.”
In a call with Chinese-language
media, however, Ms. Lee spent much of the time insisting that the T&T
model wouldn’t change.
“It’s only with our unique
characteristics that we are attractive,” she said. “We emphasized this
important point in negotiations [with Loblaw]. They see us as having
had success in handling the Asian supermarket segment. That is why they
are buying us.
“They approached us because
they want to break further into Asian groceries. They don’t want to change
us. We are both thinking the same thing.”
She also said the name wouldn’t change to incorporate Loblaws.
“There is an Asian sense of
pride here. I don’t want them to change it,” Ms. Lee said.
But she acknowledged that cultural
and language issues would be somewhat of a challenge in the transition.
“Most of our staff mainly speak
Cantonese or Mandarin. Loblaws obviously won’t be speaking to us in Chinese.
But it’s a small challenge, not a big one. Pushed to it, we can be quick
to adapt,” said Ms. Lee.
In the U.S., 99 Ranch claims
to be the largest Asian grocer with 28 stores,
primarily in Southern California. Although heavily concentrated in Southern
California and the New York Metro region, many other small
Asian supermarket chains can be found across the country. Although
some focused on Chinese food, others specialize in Korean, Japanese and
Questions: What do you think of Loblaws’ acquisition of T&T? What
are the challenges in the merger and in Loblaws reaching Asian consumers?
Should U.S. supermarkets consider acquiring local Asian grocers?
- Loblaw to acquire T&T
Supermarket, Canada’s largest Asian food retailer – Loblaw
buys B.C.’s T&T Supermarket for $225 million – The