Outside franchise replaces C-Spot
The Centre Spot convenience store operated by the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union since its creation in the early 1990s will close May 29 and be converted to an International News franchise, a company that operates outlets in airports, malls and hotels nationally.
While the changeover means that students should see greater selection, as well as be able to purchase and redeem lottery tickets on campus, the decision has left several students employed for the summer abruptly out of work.
International News will be bound to employ 75 per cent students when the store reopens after a 60-day construction period, consistent with WLUSU’s own policies.
The current employees will be forced to undergo a renewed hiring process at that point.
Sally Regenstreif, a third-year BBA student, planned on working at the C-Spot over the summer and was only told about a week prior to WLUSU’s announcement that she would no longer have a summer job.
Asked what she plans to do now, Regenstreif replied, “Nothing. This worked in with my school schedule but it would have paid for groceries and stuff.”
“Everyone hopes and plans on [being rehired]. It’s not guaranteed.”
WLUSU general manager Mike McMahon explained that there are plans in place to accommodate for the students left hanging, though exact details are limited.
“It is definitely true that it’s been difficult for these employees to learn that they won’t be employed all summer,” he said. “However, we have set up a process that those employees have some access to a fair process and aren’t left hanging on the day the store closes.”
WLUSU will only be connected to the operation as a landlord, according to McMahon, who said the change will be positive for students as a whole in terms of selection, price and otherwise. “When the Centre Spot started, campus was 3,300 [students],” he said. “Now we have 12,500 – it’s just not our expertise – students will benefit from the expertise of a national retailer.”
WLUSU was first approached by the company a number of years ago, McMahon explained, however, only over the winter was the idea given serious consideration.
“The students’ union is able to better focus on its core strategies for student support,” he said. “Although the C-Spot isn’t a huge business, the businesses do draw our administrative attention away from the core goals.”
International News has franchises operating at George Brown and Centennial College in Toronto. McMahon noted that pricing on items looks to be similar if not slightly improved over the C-Spot.
“We had about 350 items that were going to be less expensive under International News operations,” he said, adding that while the C-Spot undercut International News on about 50 items, most prices are within 5 cents of the C-Spot.
A lottery terminal should be brought in under the new franchise, he noted, while tobacco will not be stocked due to a campus policy against its sale.
The store, as well as other WLUSU businesses, also stands to sell Pepsi products as the students’ union has not renewed its long-held exclusivity agreement with Coca-Cola.
“They’ve been our long-time partners but a cold beverage agreement doesn’t work with our strategy,” McMahon explained.
“We tried to become more comfortable with it over the last two months but it was just something that didn’t fit well and the student executive made it a priority to try and do our budget for the first time in ten years without an exclusivity payment from Coke.”
WLUSU board member Jon Pryce explained that directors were informed about two months ago of the plans to replace the C-Spot with an International News location.
“They’re projecting way better profit too, so we can’t complain,” he added. “I think it’s much better for students if you think about it. There’s greater flexibility with this company to actually give students what they want and at a decent price.”