By Craig Patterson
Asian-themed grocery chain T&T Supermarket opened to massive crowds in Richmond, BC on the morning of Thursday, August 16. The lineups can be attributed to some freebies that were being given out as part of the celebrations, including free tote bags, a $7.98 lobster special, and $10 gift cards to the first 400 customers.
The 70,000 square foot store, which is the largest T&T location in the country, is located at Landsdowne Centre in suburban Vancouver. According to T&T, the new Richmond store is the company’s flagship and is located in part of the mall’s former Target space which was vacated in early 2015.
The giveaways were no doubt part of the reason why so many shoppers lined up for the store’s opening — T&T Supermarket already has two stores in Richmond and a total of 11 in the Lower Mainland, including two that operate under the ‘Osaka’ nameplate. T&T Supermarkets also operates seven stores in the Greater Toronto area and one in Ottawa, with two more on the way for Southern Ontario. There are also five stores in Alberta — two in Calgary and three in Edmonton, with the busy West Edmonton Mall location said to be doing sales in excess of $50-million annually.
T&T Supermarket is considered to be Canada’s largest chain of Asian grocery stores. The company was founded by Taiwanese-Canadian entrepreneur Cindy Lee in 1993 and in July of 2009, it was acquired by Loblaw Companies for $225-million in consideration (including $191-million in cash and $34-million in preferred shares). The name T&T stands for the names of Ms. Lee’s two daughters — Tina and Tiffany.
Its unlikely that T&T Supermarket will be at Lansdowne Centre forever, however. The mall’s landlord has indicated that it plans to close the centre in the year 2025 and eventually demolish the shopping mall for a new mixed-use urban development that will include a substantial residential component as part of a new street-grid that will expand Richmond’s downtown core. In 2014, we spoke with the head of a major big-box retailer which was expanding its operations into Canada, and he said that Lansdowne’s landlord wasn’t agreeable to long enough lease terms — as a result, the retailer opened a store nearby. It’s not clear how long T&T’s lease is at Lansdowne Centre and weather or not it will remain for a longer period as the centre is demolished in stages, though it’s obviously a good enough deal for both parties that an agreement was reached.