TORONTO - Grocery giant Empire Company Ltd. is moving forward with a new loyalty program after becoming a co-owner of the Scene+ program operated by Cineplex Inc. and Scotiabank.
The three parties announced the new partnership on Tuesday. The theatre operator and bank said the addition will allow Scene+ members to earn and redeem points at the majority of the grocer's supermarkets, including Sobeys, Safeway, Foodland, IGA, FreshCo, Needs, Thrifty Foods, Les Marches Tradition, Rachelle Bery and Lawtons Drugs
Scene+ allows cardholders to rack up points when purchasing movie tickets from Cineplex, meals from Recipe Unlimited Corp. restaurants including Swiss Chalet and Harvey's and when banking with Scotiabank. The points can be redeemed for purchases made with these businesses and others.
The deal could make the program more lucrative because it broadens the roster of retailers Scene+ can be used at and exposes all of the owners to Empire's customers, a consumer base that makes frequent shopping trips.
"We have three great Canadian brands, and we feel with the Scene+ loyalty program, we will basically improve the reach of all of our members, with the addition of groceries and all of the other things we have,'' said Ellis Jacob, Cineplex's chief executive. "To me, it's a really a big win for Canadian consumers and a big win for our program as we move forward.''
Jacquelin Weatherbee, Empire's vice-president of communications and corporate affairs,said the grocery chain did not have to pay for its co-owner status because of "the opportunity'' it brought to all of the partners.
Asked whether ownership was structured at 33.33% each, Dan Rees, Scotiabank's group head of Canadian banking said "we are all equal partners.''
He added that millions of Canadians enjoy Cineplex's entertainment every year. Scotiabank and its Tangerine brand have 10 million customers, Empire has roughly 10 million and Scene+ has about 11 million members.
The Scene+ rollout at Empire's chains and through its Voila delivery service will start in Atlantic Canada in 2022, and by early 2023 will be launched in supermarkets across the country.
However, the program will not be available at its Farm Boy or Longo's stores.
"We're always looking at new opportunities to help evolve and expand (the) offering, so they aren't a part of the current rollout plan, but we'll make some considerations for the future,'' said Weatherbee.
At a later undisclosed date, Scene+ will be accepted at Empire's network of liquor stores in Western Canada.
Competitor Loblaw Companies Ltd. has long operated its own loyalty program that can be used at its grocery stores and pharmacies, while Metro Inc. has its own program in Quebec, uses Air Miles in Ontario and Thunder Bucks in Thunder Bay.
Empire has long relied on Air Miles, which it will now phase out.
Shoppers will be able to earn Air Miles until the Scene+ program is launched in their region.
Empire had "a lot of suitors,'' when it started exploring a loyalty program, but Weatherbee said it opted for Scene+ because it was a program customers were "overwhelmingly'' interested in.
Weatherbee said the consumer profile is changing and they want loyalty programs that are diverse.
"They want choice on when, where and how they can earn and redeem and solo propriety programs jut don't offer that experience.''
Scene+ was originally created by Cineplex and Scotiabank in 2007, but relaunched in 2021 with a slew of new partners and benefits for cardholders.
- The Canadian Press
Gas prices continue to surge higher in Canada, with more increases expected next week
Gasoline prices continued to trend upward across much of Canada over the weekend and experts warn more increases are coming this week.
National average gas prices rose to about $2.06 on Sunday, up almost three cents from the day before and 11 cents higher compared with a week ago, according to the Canadian Automobile Association.
"We're seeing gas price records repeatedly shattered across the country,'' said Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy.
On Sunday, Vancouver hit an eye-watering price of nearly $2.37 a litre over the weekend while Montreal posted gas prices just shy of $2.24 a litre, according to Gas Wizard, which is run by McTeague.
St. John's hit $2.23 and Toronto approached $2.15 for a litre of regular unleaded gasoline.
Fuel prices are expected to creep up another three cents in the coming days, he said, with average gasoline prices forecasted to reach as high as $2.12 a litre across the country by late Monday.
In the Atlantic provinces, where gas prices are regulated, McTeague said regulators might use so-called interrupter clauses to introduce mid-week price hikes.
Gas prices have risen rapidly over the last year as a tight global supply has been worsened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Prices have also been pushed higher by strong demand as the economy reopens and a busy travel season gets underway.
"Prices are continuing to move up, reflecting summertime demand,'' McTeague said. "`The demand for fuel continues to be very robust.''
Rising gas prices are compounding inflation's economic toll on Canadians.
Higher fuel prices have a knock-on effect throughout the economy, pushing up prices on most goods and hurting consumer sentiment.
"Energy prices have a cascading effect on the price of food and other goods,'' McTeague said.
In a statement, CAA offered Canadians tips to improve the fuel economy of any car.
The organization said motorists should drive conservatively and avoid "jack rabbit'' starts, rapid acceleration and hard braking, which can lower fuel economy by 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic.
In addition, CAA said drivers should minimize so-called cold engine operation, meaning drivers should start the engine and then drive the car normally to warm the engine.
CAA said observing speed limits, removing unnecessary items from your vehicle, using cruise control to minimize speed fluctuations on highways and avoiding excessive idling also help reduce fuel consumption.
-The Canadian Press
Striking Molson workers reject offer as picket lines stretch into 11th week
MONTREAL - Hundreds of striking Molson Canada workers have rejected an offer from the beverage company, keeping more than 400 employees on the picket lines and bar owners with less on tap.
Teamsters Canada says the union local last week voted 92.4% against a collective agreement put on the table by the 236-year-old brewery in Montreal.
Teamsters spokeswoman Catherine Cosgrove said concerns over salary remain front and centre amid rampant inflation, on top of pension and work scheduling issues.
"As good as it may seem, the workers have to make sure they are not losing money by accepting the contract as presented,'' she said. The parties did not sit down to negotiate until May 23, she added.
Molson Coors spokesman Francois Lefebvre said the rejected deal marks its final offer following the walkout on March 25, with managers now having to deliver beer themselves under a contingency plan.
"This offer was more than generous. And this offer would have made our employees have the highest paying jobs in the beer industry in Quebec,'' he said in an interview. "The bars are kind of being held hostage.''
Renaud Poulin, head of the Quebec bar owners' association, says numerous pubs in more far-flung parts of the province are missing suds due to the 73-day strike.
"It's pretty tough. Everyone's missing beer. We don't have all the brands,'' he said.
Quebec's labour tribunal issued an interim order last month requiring Molson Canada to stop employing replacement workers until a union complaint can be heard by the quasi-judicial body.
A&W opening first trial of Pret A Manger brand in Vancouver this summer