Joannides welcomes opportunity in Prince Albert

New Prince Albert Canadian Tire owner Alex Joannides sits in his office. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Alex Joannides never saw himself as a businessman.

In university, Joannides was more interested in filmmaking than sales, but that slowly changed. Now, after 22 years in business, Joannides finds himself in Prince Albert where he’s taken over as owner and associate dealer of the Canadian Tire store from Malcolm Jenkins.

“I studied film in school, so I never thought I’d be selling tires for a living, but we evolve, eh,” Joannides says with a laugh. “I mean, how many of us change our careers several times in a lifetime.”

Joannides has been in business most of his adult life. Born and raised in Montreal, he served in the Canadian military before entering the business world.

He’s been a Canadian Tire owner for 22 years now. The Prince Albert store is his seventh.

“An opportunity came up because Malcolm was retiring, right,” said Joannides, who owned a store in Brockville, Ont. before coming to Prince Albert. “There’s kind of a classified system within Canadian Tire where you put your name in for a store that comes up.

“I’ve never lived out west. My wife and I said, ‘this would be a nice place to check out,’ so we bought the store from Malcolm, came out to see it, were really impressed with the area, (and) thought it was a nice location to go to. I think the economy looks pretty robust out here too, so certain things kind of lined up for sure.”

Joannides takes over the Prince Albert Canadian Tire at a time when the Saskatchewan retail sector is booming, at least compared to the rest of Canada. According to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan’s retail trade month-over-month growth was five times the national average from August to September. Those numbers include online sales.

However, there are also dark clouds on the horizon. Before Christmas, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem told the Globe and Mail that economic growth stalled in mid-2023, and would likely remain weak into 2024.

Joannides says retailers like Canadian Tire were forced to increase their online options during COVID-19. Although it was a challenge at the time, he said it’s paid dividends down the road. The biggest problem, he says, is finding workers, not attracting customers.

“A lot of people quit and went wherever they went, so it was tough getting folks to come in and work and meet the increased demand,” he says. “That was a challenge, and then of course now I think we’re just dealing with a downward trend in the economy, right? I mean, you’ve got interest rates high, the Carbon Tax is killing folks, and just some ridiculous stuff going on with costs out there. You go to the supermarket and you can hardly keep up with the costs, so discretionary spending is probably going to be affected by that.

“Things are going to get tighter, I think, in the next year, for sure, with respect to retail sales, but it is what it is. You just kind of roll with it.”

Joannides says brick and mortar stores that give good customer service and provide an efficient shopping experience will be profitable. With that in mind, he’s planning an aggressive renovation program starting at the end of January.

The store footprint won’t expand, but Joannides plans on “completely ripping the store apart” and rebuilding with an online pickup location, and an official Canadian Tire clearance centre with an off-site warehouse.

Joannides also plans a “complete facelift” for the store’s exterior. He says the goal is to modernize the look inside and outside.

New Prince Albert Canadian Tire owner Alex Joannides (right) presents a cheque to the Prince Albert chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters on Dec. 12, 2023. — Submitted photo.

From a shopping standpoint, Joannides plans to get the Prince Albert Canadian Tire back into the hunting rifle business. The store already offers hunting and fishing gear, but Joannides wants to expand that into a new hunting and fishing pro shop, complete with an area for hunting rifles.

“I think there’s certainly a demand,” he says. “In my last store, I developed a massive pro shop with a big gun rack and everything, and we did really well with it. Customers want that. Customers want firearms, especially in these rural communities. They want to have access to that, so we sell them, and we’re going to do exactly that here.”

Although there are a lot of changes planned for the next few months, one thing Joannides hopes to keep is the store’s commitment to the community. Joannides says he’s not Malcolm Jenkins, but he still plans on being involved and financially supporting organizations that need help.

That support began just before Christmas with a $1,000 donation to the Prince Albert chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Joannides says Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart charity has always made children a priority, and he plans to continue that trend.

“Our intent at Canadian Tire as owners is to always give back to the community, and we’ll continue to do that,” he says. “I’ve been really donating to communities my entire career. I’ve done all kinds of initiatives—large, middle, and small-scale—but obviously when you get to a community for a first month, you’re just dealing with the business (side). We’re already starting to get into there and we’re taking requests and we’re definitely planning to give back.”