The doors swung open Monday, Jan. 19 for the first day of business at the new St. Marys location of the Montreal-based Dollarama retail giant.
Founded in 1992 by Larry Rossy, who continues as the company’s CEO and chair, Dollarama maintained a single $1 price point on all merchandise in its stores until 2009. That year, explained a company spokesperson in an interview with the Journal Argus late last year, a “multi-price points” strategy was introduced with products offered for $1.25, $1.50 and $1.75.
Then in 2012, additional fixed price points of $2.50 and $3 were introduced, as well as a 75¢ price point that’s dedicated almost entirely to candy products.
Area shoppers and job-seekers have been awaiting the opening of the St. Marys location, in the former Staffen’s Food Market on Queen Street East, ever since it became certain the Canadian-owned company would take up residence. That happened back in October, when flagging tape bearing the “Dollarama” logo was put up on the interior of the former supermarket’s windows.
At the time, the corporate spokesperson told the Journal Argus to expect an opening some time in “early 2015.”
There was, however, absolutely no promotion or advertising through traditional channels about either jobs or the commencement of business. And that’s exactly the way Dollarama has conducted a decade-old strategy of Canadian growth that has seen the number of stores grow to over 900 nationwide, and a province-by-province leading 375-or-so here in Ontario.
And that’s exactly how the corporate spokesperson predicted it would unfold back in October, when speaking to the Journal Argus.
“We’ll just be opening,” the spokesperson explained. “Dollarama doesn’t do much marketing or advertising. It’s really about the customer, and talking to the customer once they’re in the store, and the customer talking with their friends after they leave the store.”
Last week, word had obviously got out that the company was hiring, as the parking lot was sometimes half-filled with vehicles and there was sometimes a steady line-up of job-seekers waiting outside, resumés in hand.
On Monday, as those successful applicants began earning their first paycheques, a request for in interview with St. Marys store management was turned down. Instead, the newspaper was directed to call a different corporate spokesperson in Dollarama’s Montreal headquarters. Messages to both that spokesperson went unanswered.
The spokesperson who provided information to the Journal Argus in October, meanwhile, did respond to a new inquiry about the number of people employed at the newly-opened store. She explained in an email that "Dollarama does not provide per-store specific information but generally-speaking, a typical store employs 15 people or so."
A staff person, who asked not to be named, noted traffic had been slow at the beginning of the Monday, but had picked up gradually as the store’s first day in business wore on. By the afternoon, the newly-unlocked doors were regularly swinging open and closed for bargain-hunters.
Comments from shoppers included statements that they weren’t even aware the store was open earlier in the day, but then they found out from a friend that the St. Marys Dollarama had opened.
Other people were entering the store with inquiries about job, having not realized last week that the company’s search for employees had already begun
Gene and Cally Jo Fritz, however, didn’t seem taken by surprise about Monday’s opening. Residents of the Happy Hills campground community near Lakeside, they have been regular shoppers at Dollarama’s Ingersoll outlet. But they prefer making the trip into St. Marys to shop, and so they had been watching to see when the Queen Street East outlet would open.
“We love shopping here,” they declared, upon exiting the store Monday afternoon.
If they knew in advance about the opening, however, it wouldn’t have been from the “Store Locator” section of the Dollarama corporation’s website.
On Monday afternoon, the newly-opened St. Marys location was not included on that part of the website. Instead, the closest outlet was listed as being in Stratford.
The Dollarama spokesperson told the Journal Argus in their email on Tuesday that "store hours (of operation) will be available via the store locator shortly — that is unfortunately the best source and what we rely on for this information as well. We are following up to get it up there!"