T & T Supermarket
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|Headquarters||Richmond, British Columbia|
Number of locations
|23 (21 T&T and 2 Osaka Supermarkets)|
|Tina Lee (CEO)|
|Products||Bakery, dairy, deli, frozen foods, grocery, meat, produce, seafood, snacks|
T & T Supermarket (simplified Chinese: 大统华超级市场; traditional Chinese: 大統華超級市場; pinyin: Dàtǒnghuá Chāojíshìchǎng) is a Canadian supermarket chain which sells primarily numerous forms of Asian foods. The supermarket chain is headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia. In 1993, the first T & T was opened in Burnaby's Metropolis at Metrotown, a shopping centre in the Metrotown area in Metro Vancouver.
With rapid expansion, T & T is now Canada's largest Asian supermarket chain. It has ten stores across British Columbia, five in Alberta (two in Calgary and three in Edmonton), and nine stores in Ontario with eight stores in the Greater Toronto Area including Downtown Toronto, and one in Ottawa. More stores are expected to open in the coming years with a target for 10 in Eastern Canada.
The stores range in size from 35,000 sq ft (3,300 m2). and 45,000 sq ft (4,200 m2). In addition to the many departments found in a regular supermarket, most T & T stores also have an in-house bakery, an Asian deli, a sushi and Chinese barbecue department.
T & T is part of Loblaw Companies, which purchased it in July 2009 for $225 million in consideration, consisting of $191 million in cash and $34 million in preferred shares. The consideration paid above and beyond the tangible asset base of the company (i.e. the accounting goodwill) which was estimated at $180 million. The chain had been created as a joint venture of Uni-President Enterprises Corporation, one of Taiwan's ten largest conglomerates; Tawa Supermarkets Inc., a California-based chain of Asian supermarkets; and a group of Canadian investors. Founder Cindy Lee is a Taiwanese-Canadian who started the business with one store.
Back in the 1990s, Chinese-Canadians in Vancouver had limited grocery options as most of the stores are individual vendors located in Chinatown. Seeking to improve shopping experience for these families, Cindy Lee founded T&T with the dream to provide a one-stop solution for high quality Asian products in an enjoyable environment. As a family-oriented supermarket founded and ran by a mother, the name T&T itself stands for the names of Lee’s two daughters, Tina and Tiffany. T&T also represents the names of the two major investors involved when the company was founded in 1993; Tawa Supermarket Inc and Uni-President Enterprises Corp. (Chinese name is pronounced "Tung Yee").
Cindy Lee, the CEO and founder of T&T Supermarket, began her entrepreneurial journey when she arrived in Canada in 1992. Like any new immigrant, Lee found it difficult and discouraging to adjust to the new surroundings, language and culture. She started working at her husband’s grocery store as a bookkeeper and it was that tiny store that sparked her passion for providing high quality goods and services to Canadians. Back in the 1990s, Chinese-Canadians in Vancouver were forced to visit small shops in Chinatown for all of their daily grocery needs and Lee was no different. But, she later found this process to be demanding and rough. The shops were street stands that were set up on cramped and unclean streets, and she had to visit multiple places on foot to get every item she needed. The place did not accommodate well for children either, especially her three toddlers. Lee saw that Asian immigrants needed a better place to shop in Vancouver and she believed T&T Supermarket would be the solution to that problem. In 1993, Lee opened the very first T&T Supermarket is Burnaby, BC followed later that year by one in Richmond, BC. What Lee wanted to provide immigrants of the Greater Vancouver area was a place for all their grocery needs, but more importantly a place they would enjoy visiting and feel like home. Lee made T&T Supermarket more welcoming by providing clean, bright, and modern store layouts with ample parking space and plenty of food and product selection from local providers and exotic imports. After only three years, T&T Supermarket began to soar and soon became the largest Asian grocer in Canada. Today, T&T Supermarket operates 23 stores nationwide from Vancouver and Edmonton to Toronto and Ottawa. As a family-oriented supermarket owned and ran by a mother, the name T&T itself stands for the names of Lee’s two daughters. From one generation to another, Tina, the eldest, has recently accepted the grand responsibility as the new CEO of T&T Supermarket from Lee in 2014. She vows to continue the work and belief of her mother and aspires to bring this immigrant-friendly, family-owned company to greater heights in the coming future.
Ongoing unionization issues
Huff Post Business Canada reported on July 17, 2012 that workers at a T&T Supermarket warehouse in Scarborough, Ontario, would head to a secret ballot vote on Monday, July 23, 2012 for unionization. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) filed an application for certification with the Ontario Labour Relations Board on July 16, 2012. According to UFCW national representative Kevin Shimmin, the workers at the T&T Supermarket Scarborough warehouse, are seeking unionization to attempt improving scheduling issues as well as tying wage more closely to seniority, instead of favouritism. Shimmin gave in the article an example that Warehouse staffs at T&T Supermarket are working a 39-hour work week, spanning six days in a week. He also pointed out that there are cases where staff have been working for T&T Supermarket for three years and are still earning a minimum wage of $10.25 per hour. Paul Ho, marketing manager for the grocery chain in Ontario, said he did not have details about wages, but maintained that work hours "vary from individual to individual, and depends on the production schedule."
The Globe and Mail reported on July 23, 2012 the result of T&T Supermarket Scarborough warehouse staff unionization. About 100 employees at the T&T Scarborough warehouse voted in the secret ballot vote on Monday July, 23. However, the Ontario Labour Relations Board sealed the ballot box for review. Dispute arose as the UFCW and T&T Supermarket argued about the eligibility of the voters in the voter list. UFCW national representative Kevin Shimmin said that the dispute caused the secret ballot vote to be reviewed, while Cindy Lee, founder at T&T Supermarket claimed that it was the decision of the Ontario Labour Relations Board to look into whether the union has enough support from employees to in the first place file the application.
Lawsuit of exploitation
On March 5, 2007, The Tyee blog reported a case of a foreign temporary worker who had been exploited, and had his passport seized by T & T Supermarket. According to The Tyee's coverage, "In a notice of claim filed with the small claims division of the provincial court of B.C., Gui Qiang Zou claims he was pressured into working longer hours for lower wages than promised after the firm kept his passport and other key documents."
- "Loblaw buying T&T Asian food chain". CBC News. July 24, 2009.
- "2009 Third Quarter Report" (PDF). Loblaw Companies. p. 22. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
- Ron Eade (2009-10-02). "T&T arrives with a bang". The Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
- T&T Union Certification: Asian Grocer's Warehouse Workers In Scarborough, Ontario Seek Certification, The Huffington Post www.huffingtonpost.ca, July 17, 2012
- Loblaw locked in labour dispute at Asian supermarket chain, The Globe and Mail, www.theglobeandmail.com, July 23, 2012
- Tricked and Exploited?, www.TheTyee.ca, March 5, 2007
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