Coop Federee to close Que. hardware distribution centre

Agricultural co-operative La Coop federee plans to close the distribution centre supplying “hardware and material” to its Unimat chain of ag supply and hardware retail stores by early next year.

The Quebec co-op giant, whose operations also include fuel company Sonic and meat packer Olymel, said Friday it will gradually shut down those distribution operations at its Trois-Rivieres facility over the next 12 to 15 months.

However, the co-op said, its “agricultural machinery and parts activities” at the Trois-Rivieres facility, and its Unimat banner, will be “maintained.”

By the spring of 2015, the co-op said, 236 employees at the centre will be laid off, starting with administrative staff this spring, followed by warehouse employees this summer and fall.

The facility today supplies over 175 Unimat and La Coop stores in Quebec, New Brunswick and eastern Ontario with retail hardware, construction and renovation materials and equipment and yard and gardening products, as well as farm and forestry machinery and tools.

La Coop said the retail hardware and renovation industry “has been evolving in a particular economic context for the last few years, one which has been moving toward consolidation.”

The co-op added, however, that its involvement in that sector “remains a priority and it intends to remain a full player,” though it didn’t specify how it will supply the Unimat chain with hardware and materials after the shutdown.

“The status quo was not a responsible decision” at Trois-Rivieres, La Coop CEO Claude Lafleur said in a release Friday.

“We looked at a lot of scenarios, including specialization, regionalization, and even bringing back certain activities. We also conducted technical analyses that were studied seriously. However, we arrived at the conclusion that we were up against the wall.”

The decision follows La Coop’s announcement in November that it would take a minority stake in another Quebec’s second-biggest hardware and home reno retail chain, Groupe BMR, citing the “purchasing power and economies of scale” in such an association. [Related story] Network

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