April will soon open its 11e Load. As the chain of organic supermarkets continues to expand, particularly with the imminent arrival of new “neighborhood grocery stores” in Montreal, the founding couple are beginning to prepare for their succession, confirmed in an interview with The press Sylvie Senay, co-owner of the company.
Posted at 11:00 am
“We’re not getting any younger,” says Sylvie Senay, who forms the duo at the origin of Avril’s birth with her husband Rolland Tanguay. “We are preparing to have a team to ensure continuity. We think about it. We prepare the right people. 25 years ago my husband said to me: “I’ll retire in five years”, adds Mme Senay laughs during a get-together organized at his shop in Montreal’s international district. “But it is clear that the period of five years is perhaps more realistic. »
Until then, the entrepreneur, who will soon be celebrating her 67th birthday, will not be short of projects. His company wants to open an average of two branches per year. The Montreal market, where the company made its first breakthrough in the summer of 2021 with the opening of a store on the ground floor of the downtown Humaniti complex, is attracting a lot of interest.
“There may be others showing up in Montreal,” says Mme Senay, without giving details of future locations. We have needs in different places. We have talks that are ongoing. »
As in the Humaniti complex, the shops in the metropolis are laid out like “small urban Avrils”. Typically, the couple’s supermarkets average 20,000 square feet. The Montreal version was reduced to 7550 square feet.
People in Montreal shop in their neighborhoods. It’s more of a goal. It’s going to be a neighborhood business.
Sylvie Senay, co-owner of Avril
Additionally, the April 1 opening on the island amid a pandemic has meant the company has been without much of its clientele from nearby offices due to telecommuting. Then many events were canceled at the nearby Palais des Congrès.
“This is our first store in Montreal. Many residents live in the towers, but there are office customers who, unfortunately, are no longer in the city center. It will be continued. These are people who will find us,” believes Sylvie Senay.
The newcomer to the Place de la Cité
Other supermarkets could also spring up elsewhere in the province. Whether Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Bas-Saint-Laurent or Outaouais, the demand is there, confirms the co-owner. Some consumers even sometimes send her suggestions for possible locations.
The newcomer will open in about two weeks in Quebec City, Boulevard Laurier, on the ground floor of the Place de la Cité complex. “This will be for the best. The last thing is always the best,” M proudly launchesme senai With 36,000 square feet – and a $10 million investment – the store will notably feature an expanded food court and multiple automated checkouts.
The broccoli myth
In these inflationary times, when consumers want to save money, Avril, which sells organic and niche products, does not feel its sales falling, the owner assured several times during the interview. “Our customers put their health first. »
Mme However, Senay finds it “regrettable” that organic products are still labeled “expensive”.
Our gateway to the shops is fruit and veg. Sometimes organic broccoli is cheaper than regular broccoli. It’s surprising.
Sylvie Senay, co-owner of Avril
According to reviews on the various brands’ websites on Thursday, Avril’s organic broccoli sold for $3.99, while its competitors announced a price of between $1.99 and $2.99 for the green vegetable (non-organic). Organic broccoli is sold at a comparable price in some places.
However, the Avril co-founder reminds us that it’s generally difficult to compare conventional food to organic food. “Natural organic cannot be compared with conventional products. We can compare organic with organic that the big chains can offer. You have to compare tomatoes with tomatoes. »
Despite everything, it maintains that the prices offered in its stores are competitive, even for products that are considered high-end. “We have a team of buyers whose job it is to always negotiate prices well. We have a warehouse to be able to buy large quantities. With almost 11 branches, we have bargaining power. »
Like other banners such as IGA, Metro and Loblaw, Avril’s private label products have seen a surge in sales lately. And over the past year, the company has been working on its brand image to make it more consistent and recognizable on store shelves. Known under the Naturellement brand, it is marketed under the Avril name.
Number of stores: 11 (including the one opening in Quebec)
Some locations: Laval, Magog, Lévis, Granby, Longueuil, Montreal
Number of employees: more than 1000