It’s bright, breathable, and has that new store smell — after much anticipation, the new Canadian Tire in Fort St. John opens its doors to customers on Thursday morning.
The old store on 93 Avenue closed Oct. 9, and employees have spent the last week hustling and moving the rest of their equipment, inventory, and computer systems over to the new location on Old Fort Road.
“The work starts when the doors open and customers start walking through,” said Associate Dealer Ross Bannerman during a sneak peek tour last week. "Julie and I are so happy to finally bring the best of the Canadian Tire brand to our customers. Our long standing, very loyal customers deserve this shopping experience."
The new store sprawls 150,000 square feet, with roughly 81,000 of that dedicated to the retail floor.
The rest is home to a massive, two-floor warehouse equipped with elevator lifts and conveyor belts and chutes to move product, and an expanded auto service shop featuring 15 bays.
To put things into perspective, the size of the new store’s garden centre is about the size of the old store.
“Because we’re so big we can keep every category out all year,” said Bannerman. “It’s just so much better of a setup that we had before.”
There’s plenty for shoppers to explore throughout the store’s 115 aisles — built to a height of just 84 inches to keep the store feeling open and spacious, a remarkable difference from its former location, and well suited for physical distancing.
“The lower aisles, not having that top shelf, makes a big difference in the look of the store,” Bannerman said.
The store comes with plenty of new features, including a pro shop for hunting and fishing, a hockey boutique, a Petco, and brightly lit and colourful retail displays for tools and garage equipment, kitchenware and bathroom and lighting fixtures, and ready-to-assemble furniture.
“This is a big one for us that we’re excited about,” Bannerman said about the home furnishing displays.
“We’ve always had this category and we sell quite well in our old store, but we can never show customers the product because we don’t have the room to set it up. Now everything will be assembled and on display.”
Bannerman is also excited for the store’s new Kid’s Zone, home to mini shopping carts, TVs playing cartoons, and mountains of toys.
“We’re going to be able to stay in this business all year. We’ll be really going after the business in a positive way,” said Bannerman. “We were in the business for Christmas, but we had limited space for what we needed … then we had to get out of the business right away because we didn’t have the space.”
The store is set for fall and winter — yes, the Christmas displays are already up, but shoppers will also be able to pick up their summer gardening tools year-round too.
“The big problem is when you’re bridging seasons, because you have to tear it down in time to get ready for the next one. But customers are looking for the product later in the season,” Bannerman said.
The store will also have a big focus on e-commerce and online ordering.
One section has been dedicated strictly for customer pickup, and includes a sheltered bay for vehicles, a row of product lockers of varying sizes, and a state-of-the-art computer system to sort and prepare orders for pickup with the scan of a barcode.
“We pop it in and close the door. The customer gets an email that will be the barcode for that locker, so when the customer comes in to pick it up, they’ll scan the barcode and the panel door will open up with their product,” Bannerman said. “It’s going to be a huge improvement over our existing store for serving customers.”
The store employs 112 people, and a brand new staff room has been designed to feel more like home than a break room, complete with couches, televisions, a kitchen, and dining area.
“We wanted to have something nice for them to enjoy,” said Julie Bannerman.
She added that the new auto service department includes plenty of shelf space for customers to store their off-season tires. “We’ve been asked for that for so many years.”
Forty people are needed to staff and manage the warehouse throughout the week, and extra hires have been made for tire service. At least one more service technician will be hired, depending on traffic and customer growth, Bannerman said.
“There is a lot of work to do,” Bannerman said. “We’re confident. We’re ready to open.”
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.