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Circle K launches frictionless checkout pilot with MasterCard

Unknown-1Alimentation Couche-Tard’s Circle K is teaming up with Mastercard to pilot a rollout of timely frictionless checkout solutions designed for convenience stores and other retailers.

While frictionless retail experiences have been gaining momentum in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail section and its customers are speeding up the adaptation of technology solutions to reduce touchpoints and time spent in stores.

In October. Circle K’s Shop Anywhere pilot will launch at-the-pump and in-store frictionless experiences for its consumers, enabling them to efficiently grab-and-go snacks and drinks at select locations in Canada and the United States.

Through robust inventory and participating shopper analytics Mastercard’s platform is designed to improve and speed up the in-store experience by eliminating points of friction. In other words, no line ups, no waiting and the introduction of secure payments.

For instance, shoppers will be able to  grab-and-go at select Circle K locations and never have to engage in face-to-face interactions. In addition, consumers can receive personalized offers based on historical purchasing trends. On the foodservice side, these means shoppers can place an order without waiting in line for staff to take that order, enabling staff to focus on order fulfillment.

Shop Anywhere can also give shoppers access to stores outside of normal opening hours if selected by the retailer, in addition to unique and exclusive merchandise.(Dunkin’ and White Castle in the U.S. are also piloting the platform).

According to Mastercard’s Recovery Insights: Shift to Digital report, in-person shopping remains a draw, though consumers are seeking offerings that bridge the physical and digital to streamline the overall experience. In August, Mastercard unveiled its new suite of frictionless solutions for retailers to reimagine their physical shopping experience.

“As retailers and consumers navigate through one of the most disruptive periods in modern history, it’s clear that traditional business operations will need to evolve quickly,” Stephane Wyper, senior vice president, retail innovation, Mastercard, said in a release. “We’re committed to supporting our retail partners as they look to meet the unforeseen challenges posed by this new normal and provide their customers with a more digitally enabled, touchless and secure retail experience.”

The Shop Anywhere platform is supported by AI and computer vision technology partner Accel Robotics.

“We are thrilled to partner with Mastercard to help retailers deliver a new world of convenience,” said Accel Robotics CEO Brandon Maseda. “Through the Shop Anywhere platform, we are helping shorten the distance between shoppers and satisfaction.”

Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard, which has a network of 14,500 stores, including 9,414 stores in North America; 2,710 stores in Europe, including Scandinavia, Baltics, Poland, Russia and Ireland; and licensing agreements for approximately 2,350 stores operated under the Circle K banner in 15 other countries and territories.

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Star Women ticket sales to support Food Banks Canada

Screen Shot 2020-09-16 at 12.55.57 PMConvenience Store News Canada is pleased to partner with Food Banks Canada for the Star Women in Convenience Virtual Celebration.

Food Banks Canada provides national leadership to relieve hunger today and prevent hunger tomorrow in collaboration with the food bank network from coast-to-coast-to-coast. For 40 years, food banks have been dedicated to helping Canadians living with food insecurity. 

Food banks across the country have experienced a surge in demand during the pandemic: 100% of revenue from ticket sales will go to Food Banks Canada COVID-19 Response Fund supporting local food banks across Canada.

Tickets are $25 and on sale now.

Screen Shot 2020-07-09 at 11.09.00 AM“In taking the Star Women in Convenience celebration online to keep attendees safe during the pandemic, we were looking for a way to make a meaningful contribution to honour our winners,” says CSNC editor Michelle Warren. “The convenience industry is an important partner for Food Banks Canada, which supports communities across the country. Now, more than ever, it’s a time for those who are able to give back.”

The nationwide industry celebration will kick off at 11 a.m. EST on Wednesday November 4, 2020. It promises to be an engaging and exciting show that will include a keynote from PepsiCo Foods Canada president Cara Keating, a panel discussion, networking opportunities and, of course, the awards presentation. For full profiles and photos of the winners, visit

Please join us as the industry comes together to celebrate and honour the 2020 Star Women in Convenience.

Registration is now open! 

Ian White, Parkland

Parkland leaders discuss On the Run deal

UnknownCalgary-based Parkland Corporation will acquire the license for the exclusive use of the On the Run trademark in the majority of U.S. states. The deal includes an option to purchase the On the Run U.S. trademark together with the license owner’s On the Run franchise business. The acquisition positions Parkland to expand On the Run across the United States to create a unified, North American convenience store brand.

Parkland is a convenience/gas leader with more than 1,850 fueling sites in Canada featuring brands such as, Ultramar, Esso, Fas Gas Plus, Chevron, Pioneer and Race Trac. The company is also a major presence in the U.S and Caribbean markets. In the U.S., Parkland owns c-stores, supplies independently owned gas stations, delivers bulk fuels and supplies lubricants. U.S. brands include, Rhinehart Oil, Hart’s and Farstad Oil, as well as Superpumper, Kellerstrass Oil Company, KB Express, Mort Distributing, ConoMart Super Stores, and Tropic Oil. In the Caribbean, Parkland offers brands such as Esso, SOL and Shell at 496 locations in 23 countries.

On the Run is an international convenience retail brand developed by ExxonMobile in the U.S. Parkland Corporation took on the Canadian rights to use the brand in 2016 after Imperial Oil divested its retail network. Before Parkland’s licensing announcement, the company operated more than 300 On the Run sites at gas stations operating under various brands.  

Ian White, Parkland

Ian White, Parkland

According to Ian White, SVP, strategic marketing & innovation at Parkland, On the Run is an established retail brand that can be quickly and efficiently scaled by leveraging the capabilities already established in the Canadian market. He suggests that the time is right to create a unified North American retail and convenience store brand. He points to five strategic rationals for the decision.

  1. Create a unified North American convenience brand by expanding On the Run across the U.S.
  2. Capture efficiencies through common brand collateral, product assortments, private label product ranges and operational continuity.
  3. Opportunity to rebrand existing U.S. convenience stores and efficiently incorporate the On the Run convenience brand to newly developed sites.
  4. Greater optionality and a strong convenience store foundation for future U.S. merger and acquisition activities.
  5. Support the organic growth of the dealer business by providing an enhanced, bundled offer that combines a leading convenience store brand with multiple forecourt fuel brands.


Doug Haugh, president, Parkland USA, tells OCTANE  that the initiative builds on successes in brand image, private-label goods and product assortment already established in the Canadian market. “Our U.S. customers will enjoy an enhanced interior and exterior rebranding elements,” he says, noting larger and brighter canopies and a variety of new product offerings coming to locations soon.

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Inabuggy launches Inabuggy-Mart, a new ‘hyperlocal’ service

Screen Shot 2020-09-14 at 1.18.20 PMOnline grocery delivery service Inabuggy is continuing its aggressive product rollout with the addition of a “hyperlocal” offering called Inabuggy-Mart. It joins existing Inabuggy services spanning traditional and specialty grocery stores, foodservice providers and alcohol retailers.

Inabuggy-Mart offers online ordering for approximately 1,000 SKUs ranging from convenience items such as bread, milk, eggs, snack foods and confectionery, to flowers and face masks. It will support family-owned or independent stores including butcher and flower shops, many of which don’t have the necessary resources to make deliveries.

The service will be available seven days a week in the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. Inabuggy is promising delivery within as little as 30 minutes, which it claims is a first for a Canadian grocery delivery service.

“What we’ve noticed is that customers are not just looking for a wider assortment of products, they’re also looking for a quick turnaround time,” says Inabuggy founder and CEO Julian Gleizer. The company will charge a $9.99 delivery fee, with no minimum order, compared to $19.98 for Inabuggy.

Gleizer says the nature of the participating stores, all of which provide easy in-and-out access for Inabuggy’s shoppers, allows it to offer 30-minute delivery in the more densely populated areas. The company is still enlisting local stores for the service, with Gleizer saying it has recruited a “significant number” of operators across the country.

The launch of Inabuggy-Mart comes as online grocery has exploded because of the pandemic. Gleizer admits Inabuggy was caught off-guard by the initial surge in customer demand, but has adapted as the crisis has continued. Its technology has advanced five years in the past five months, he says.

Gleizer says Inabuggy was turning the corner on profit just as the pandemic hit, but increased consumer demand has further driven revenue. It has also continued to add shoppers to meet the increased demand, now employing more than 1,000 shoppers across the country.

The service’s average order value, meanwhile, rose from about $218 pre-pandemic to around $243, while the number of times the average customer is using the service has rise from to 11 times per month.

Inabuggy currently offers delivery of more than 70,000 SKUs from more than 50 retail partners in over 200 regions. It has also formalized relationships with CPG companies including Conagra Brands, Fruits from Chile, Kraft Heinz Canada, The Oppenheimer Group and SC Johnson, among others.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer. 

©CU Photography - - Edmonton Wedding Photographer - 780-716-3915

Supply and demand: A conversation with Dan Elrod of Wallace & Carey

©CU Photography - - Edmonton Wedding Photographer - 780-716-3915

Dan Elrod ©CU Photography

Dan Elrod is president of Wallace & Carey, a leading logistics and supply chain solution to the convenience industry Canada. The family-owned business started in Calgary in 1921 with one truck and eight staff—today it has touchpoints coast to coast to coast, stocking more than 12,000 products in 10 modern distribution centres, a fleet of more than 140 trucks and 700 staff. With more than 1,000 deliveries a day, and millions of items each year, the company is an integral part of the supply-chain network for convenience retailers, which represent about 80% of the company’s business.

Elrod, who hails from Texas, retired from distribution giant McLane in 2017 and in 2018 moved to Calgary to join Wallace & Carey.

CSNC editor Michelle Warren spoke with Elrod about challenges, changes and fresh opportunities. 

What brought you to Canada? DE: One of my key decision points on deciding to join this company was, ‘Do we have competent, skilled professionals in the key areas of the business?’ That’s in purchasing and in operations, that is sales and marketing—the answer was very much so yes, in every area. I thought that I could be of benefit to the business after looking at what their opportunities and needs were, and decided to give it a shot. 

What’s the first thing you noticed about the Canadian convenience industry? DE: There has been some consolidation occurring through acquisitions, where some larger groups are bringing on or taking over some smaller regional and local players. I would say the independent convenience store retailer is very much fragmented, including sourcing, which is an inefficient process for those retailers.

 How are you addressing this? DE: Wallace & Carey began an initiative last year, to increase our retail store base by a net 300, over a 12-month period, and we achieved that goal. Success with independents is getting their order to them with the products that they need at the right time at a good price. You have to have a sales force that is actually making physical calls into retail, and talking to those customers, and developing the relationship so they trust we know what’s going on, what’s available in the market, what the trends are, the new products—things that a large chain is going to hear immediately from the manufacturer. The independents don’t have that luxury: Bringing those offers, options, deals and promos directly to them on an ongoing basis, is a huge added value proposition.

 Tell us about some core initiatives. DE: We’ve taken a number of steps to improve our performance. Wholesale distribution, if you run extremely well, you hope to achieve maybe 5% gross margins and maybe 1% pre-tax operating profit. It’s tight, so what do you do? If you raise your price to your customers, then you’re not competitive. Instead, you become more efficient in what you buy and how you manage it. We have focused on improving our value added services to our suppliers so we have more productive relationships with them. The other side is being a very good service provider. To a convenience store that means you show up on time with the products that they ordered. That’s your service levels, your fill rates. We’ve always been good at that, but it’s cost us money to be good at that because of some inefficiencies.

How did you turn this around? DE: We’ve become more efficient in our inventory management. We’ve also become much more efficient in our operating costs and routing. That’s essentially asking if we are matching labour expense to the volume of work that we’re doing on a minute-by-minute basis: Literally, it is minute by minute. For instance, now we create a route that’s got 10 specific stores on it and each one can be delivered to within a two-hour ETA. Really, blocking and tackling operational execution, running things efficiently, finding areas of waste or inefficiency, and solving for those, is where a distributor can make a material difference. Everything has to be measured against a standard: Is it contributing positively to the bottom line or is it not? We have focused and grown in areas that were positive and productive to our business.

You’ve added cannabis distribution to the mix: How did that come about?

CannabisDE: Timing is everything. I joined officially in September of 2018, and cannabis became legal in Canada in October. However, Canada did what countries always do with initiative like this, they forgot about the supply chain. All of the regulations are around what a manufacturer-producer can do, and about what a retailer can do, but what happens in the middle? What we quickly found was that our expertise handling, managing and shipping, high value, highly regulated product was very well developed, because of what we do with cigarettes and tobacco. We developed a very extensive set of best practices and procedures, specific to that product—this is what you need to manage, and secure, and protect, and stay within the laws and guidelines of getting your product from point A to point B.

What is your role now? DE: The key point is we do not buy, own, we don’t even warehouse cannabis. Our involvement is in transporting. We essentially saw a market need, and the solution fit our business model well. We’re venturing into areas and situations where it makes sense, but it’s by no means our core business—that continues to be convenience and that’s where we invest our capital resources, in our infrastructure and systems growth and development of our core business and core competencies. That is convenience store wholesale distribution.

Do you see any links between the future of cannabis and convenience? Might there be opportunities, down the road, to marry these businesses? DE: What I hear is, ultimately, most in the industry believes that they will be selling cannabis in some form eventually, and that’s from the largest chains to the smallest store. You put your regulations around it, and then you make it available to the public. You don’t tell them where they have to go to buy it. 

 One more COVID-19-related question: As the economy reopens, what can the industry learn from and build on to succeed in the coming months? DE: As with most Canadian businesses and elsewhere, Wallace & Carey took immediate steps to protect our teammates and customers, through implementation of improved health and safety protocols. Deemed an essential business, we have continued to operate in support of the needs of our customers and all Canadians…. Wallace & Carey, and our industry as a whole, has learned unexpected disruptions require us to be nimble and efficient, in all areas of the business, at all times. New traffic patterns within our customers’ businesses, changing demand from consumers, a workforce with high expectations for improved health and safety measures, and any number of other variables challenge us to be flexible, adaptable, and open to change that is certainly with us and here to stay.


Parkland Fuel to expand On the Run convenience store brand across the United States

parklandontheruncanadainteriorphotoParkland Fuel Corp. plans to expand its Canadian On the Run convenience store brand across the United States after acquiring the licence in most states.

The Calgary-based company says creating a unified North American brand will “harness the advantages of our scale. ”

Ian White, Parkland senior vice-president strategic marketing and innovation, says the change comes as it proceeds with its growth strategy, which includes future acquisitions.

Parkland says it has acquired the perpetual licence for the exclusive use of the On the Run trademark and the option to purchase the trademark altogether.

parklandontheruncanadaexterior-photoParkland acquired the On the Run brand and franchise network in Canada from Imperial Oil in 2016 and has 300 of them in 1,849 gas stations operating under various brands including Ultramar and Pioneer.

Parkland currently has 58 convenience stores in the U.S. operating under the Harts, ConoMart Super Stores, and Superpumper, KB Express banners.

“The On the Run retail brand provides a solid platform for our continued U.S. growth,” added Doug Haugh, president, Parkland USA.

“Building on our existing On the Run brand image, product assortments and private label goods in Canada, we look forward to meeting the convenience needs of our U.S. customers under the On the Run banner.”


Stylish promo for 7-Eleven

7‑Eleven, Inc. is partnering with Forever 21 for a fashion-oriented program made for social media and F21_7E_8.13.2020__003__1404953661_9915social distancing.

After teasing the exclusive 7‑Eleven merchandise on social media July 11 – the company’s official birthday – Forever 21 debuted the limited-time collection of #F21X7ELEVEN collection on the Forever 21 app and at It is available online-only, not in stores.

“For over 90 years, 7‑Eleven has been an integral part of American life,” Forever 21 global creative director, Joanna Choo, said in a release. “It is a modern breathing brand, but also a nostalgic phenomenon for many. Forever 21 echoes this mindset by presenting a collab for its customers that pays homage to everyone’s favorite memory of being out, but staying close to home, heading out for a quick snack run with friends, and finding comfort in the little things. During this time, it makes sense to create a capsule that’s about being cozy but stylish. Both of our brands play a big part in day to day lifestyle, then and now.”

Instagram and TikTok are being used to promote the 7‑Eleven collection with a dance challenge, polls, games and sweepstakes for free stuff.

The colourful 16-piece capsule includes multiple ways to make a “Big Gulp” statement with cropped and regular t-shirts and hoodies, as well as fleece for fall. The collection features a vintage vibe, with renditions of the convenience retailer’s most iconic logos on backgrounds of tie-dyed colours, pastels, brights and whites.

“When 2020 turned everyone’s summer plans on its head, including our free Slurpee drink birthday celebration, we were thrilled to add some sizzle to the summer through our collaboration with Forever 21,” said 7‑Eleven chief marketing officer and SVP Marissa Jarratt. “Now, fans can sport their favorite F21-styled 7‑Eleven looks when going out for a physically distanced Slurpee drink run, or while simply hanging at home awaiting their 7‑Eleven faves via 7NOW delivery.”


Couche Tard on hunt for acquisitions but CEO doesn’t get rival’s Speedway deal

couche-tard2-780x520=Alimentation Couche-Tard continues to be on the hunt for acquisitions even as it claims convenience store rival 7-Eleven’s blockbuster US$21-billion acquisition of the Speedway network in the U.S. doesn’t make sense.

Chief executive Brian Hannasch told investors September 2 that the deal announced last month for the 3,900-store network owned by Marathon Petroleum “traded at value, quite honestly, I can’t understand.”

He said potential acquisition deals have been relatively quiet in the quarter but that activity should pick up as the focus on the COVID-19 pandemic lessens.

“Now that COVID has become a bit of the new normal, we are starting to see a little more deal flow … And if the value is there, we’ll certainly take advantage of those opportunities.”

The fragmented U.S. market remains a prime target as are significant opportunities in Western Canada.

Asia-Pacific, including Australia, remains “a strong area of focus due to long-term growth potential.”

“We are exploring several opportunities actively there,” Hannasch said, adding that the pandemic has created uncertainty Down Under.

He said Ampol (formerly called Caltex), which Couche-Tard had previously targeted, has been weaker than expected. Peter Sklar of BMO Capital Markets said he doesn’t believe Couche-Tard will pursue a deal in the near-term because of its weak financial performance.

While there are markets in Europe that are interesting, the region isn’t a priority, Hannasch noted.

Acquisitions are part of Couche-Tard’s strategy to double its size within five years.

Hannasch said its five-year plan remains on track after two years despite the coronavirus.

“I’m pleased that we continue to make good progress on most of our initiatives. While the pandemic has had an impact short-term on traffic patterns and behaviours, there’s a lot of pushes and pulls.”

Couche-Tard’s shares surged 7.5% Sept. 2, after it reported strong first-quarter results after markets closed on Tuesday.

The company said its net profit surged 44% despite a big drop in fuel sales at its convenience stores because of COVID-19.

The Quebec-based retailer that operates the Circle K brand says it earned US$771.1 million or 70 cents per diluted share in its first quarter, up from US$538.8 million or 48 cents per share a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings attributable to shareholders came in at 71 cent per share, up from 40 cents per share forecast by analysts, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

“We had an exceptional quarter, I think, both financially and operationally, as we’ve seen an increase in shopping occasions and solid execution by our teams to take advantage of changing consumer behaviours during this COVID period,” Hannasch told analysts.

Revenues for the three months ended July 19 decreased 31.4% to US$9.71 billion, compared with US$14.2 billion a year earlier and below forecasts of US$10.55 billion.

The retailer said its in-store sales benefited from shoppers buying more, while fuel sales were hurt by lower demand and prices, partially offset by strong fuel margins.

Tobacco sales were strong, especially in Canada.

Same-store fuel volume decreased 21.2% in the U.S., 25.6% in Canada, and 12.4% in Europe.

Source: Instragram

The Pumps run dry

Source: Instragram

Source: Instragram

After nearly a decade in business, Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen is reinventing itself and moving from its current location to a nearby storefront on Queen Street East in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood. The catch? No more fuel service.

Brothers Greg and Judson Flom took over the site in October of 2011 and quickly established themselves as a unique voice in the c-gas community, with a strong vision for foodservice.  The Toronto location, modelled after an American site the duo researched online, became a southern barbecue destination, famous for pulled pork sandwiches, poutine and its late-night curry offering targeting local revellers on their way home from the bars.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 3.44.59 PMThe announcement of the closure came via social media on August 27, after rumours started swirling when neighbours noticed the building’s iconic signage coming down. Many feared The Pumps, as it’s known locally, was a victim of pandemic-related closures.

During the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, Leslieville Pumps was an industry leader, quickly announcing enhanced sanitizing measures and even offering to run orders out to people’s cars. It was the early days of curbside delivery.

Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

Instead of an end, however, it’s a new beginning. “After an awesome 10 years of being Toronto’s most unique gas station we are excited to move into a space that will allow us to focus on our love for BBQ and continue to provide all your convenience store goods.”

Fuel will no longer be on the menu, however. The Floms marked the change with a special deal, offering gas at 50 cents/L from 9 a.m. August 28 until the pumps ran dry. By 10 a.m., it was all over and the pumps were being dismantled.

The kitchen closed on August 29 and the general store followed on August 31.

Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 9.16.50 PMIn a social media post commemorating their last day at the old location, the brothers said: “When we opened almost a decade ago, we were so excited to open the shop and start our culinary adventure. Little did we know that at the end of today would be the first day we’ve had to lock the door. Running a 24/7 business has been thrilling and unforgettable. To be part of the daily rituals of the early risers and night dwellers in Leslieville, we’ve created friendships that will surely follow us a few doors down to our new location.”

The new location, just three doors down at 913 Queen Street East, is slated to open this month. It’s being dubbed a General Store so patrons can expect some of their favourite convenience items and snacks alongside the famous BBQ menu.


Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen has share insights and been feature in Convenience Store News Canada and OCTANE several times over the years. Here’s a look back at the coverage:

Pumps’ co-owners share tips for foodservice success


Leslieville Pumps: 3 ways to get foodservice right

Four ways you can go digital 

Barbecue barons


Canopy Growth opens cannabis stores in Alberta

Ontario-based Canopy Growth Corp. is preparing to open its first retail cannabis stores in Alberta.

The company is to open 10 stores under its Tweed and Tokyo Smoke banners and says it has additional locations in the pipeline.

Visitors Centre_Tour_jp94Rx9A“With 10 new stores set to open and additional locations in the pipeline, we are thrilled to announce this milestone and excited to bring the Tokyo Smoke and Tweed guest experiences to Alberta for the first time,” Grant Caton, general manager Canopy Growth, said in a statement. “We’ve seen the value brick-and-mortar retail brings to our consumers – welcoming new guests to learn about cannabis and building relationships in new communities – and we’re excited to share our knowledge and industry leadership across the region.”

The stores include seven locations in Calgary and one each in Spruce Grove, Lethbridge and Edmonton. Canopy says it will create more than 100 jobs in Alberta.

The following retail locations are set to open their doors this week:

Tokyo Smoke:

  • Unit 100, 4310 MacLeod Trail SW, Calgary, AB
  • 418 16th Avenue NW, Calgary, AB
  • Unit 101, 1022 17th Avenue SW Calgary, AB
  • 3011 14th Street SW, Calgary, AB
  • Unit 204, 131 Century Crossing, Spruce Grove, AB
  • Unit 104, 1020 9 Ave SE, Calgary, AB


  • 8650 112 Ave NW, Calgary, AB
  • Unit 122, 425 Aviation Road NE, Calgary, AB
  • Unit 130, 333-6th Street South, Lethbridge, AB
  • 10431 82 Avenue, T6E 2A1, Edmonton, AB

Canopy is one of Canada’s largest cannabis producers and retailers. In February 2019, Couche-Tard Inc. entered into a multi-year agreement with Canopy Growth. Through this partnership, the convenience giant said it planned to “lean on Canopy Growth’s cannabis expertise and leverage its experience with other age-restricted products to focus on the safe, responsible and lawful sale of cannabis, consistent with the  legislation enacted by the federal and provincial governments.”

Quebec-based Couche-Tard is vying for a piece of the North American market and is investing heavily, including a partnership with Alberta retailer Fire & Flower. This summer, the cannabis retailer co-located two locations with Circle K stores.

Canopy Growth says its expansion into Alberta will bring its number of retail locations across Canada to a total of 50, with more planned later this year.

-With files from The Canadian Press