Dear friends, we have some news. We are pausing our store, SwitchGrocery, for a period of 3 - 6 months.
Effective now, everything is 30% off as part of this change. Update: we have now updated our store to 50% off! Prices reflect the discount. We are doing no refunds, exchanges or store credits as a part of this final sale. I'm so sorry but SwitchRewards are no longer able to be used as well.
In this blog post, I explain why this is happening and answer any questions I think you will have. If you prefer to watch a video, you can watch a 7 minute video where I explain everything.
Why did this happen?
SwitchGrocery was selected for a regulatory review.
The good news. We got through our audit. We have all the quality documentation from our suppliers that we need. We have strong internal controls at our warehouse in our receiving, pick and pack, and storage processes. We have a Preventative Control Plan in place that we are proud of. And we are proud to share with our customers we have a strong culture and commitment to food safety.
The challenging news. There is a federal requirement for bilingual labelling for food products, and many of the US brands we import do not meet this requirement.
Now, please note that we had always planned to continue to work with our suppliers to achieve this. However with rising costs, inflation, etc this was put on the back burner.
However, as a result of this audit and internal discussions, the time has come that this needs to be corrected going forward before we import products from the U.S.
We are in conversations with our suppliers. Some of them will be able to execute this change within 3 - 6 months. Some will choose not to sell in Canada as a result of the cost investment.
We are pausing our store for the next 3 - 6 months, as we work individually with our US suppliers and on the next stage of SwitchGrocery.
We also want to take this opportunity to
1. take a break
2. focus on a slower and more profitable comeback.
Why? Because we are seeing a significant impact on profitability where even by increasing prices, our cost structure (shipping, fulfillment, marketing) continues to increase.
I think that means coming back as a store with less selection and a slower pace.
I have So Many More Questions!
Why was SwitchGrocery selected for this regulatory review?
Our understanding is that this enforcement was meant to happen in 2020; however with COVID-19, it was postponed. We understand that anyone who has an importer's license will be subjected to a similar review.
Why did the US brands not have this labelling in place?
I can't speak for US brands. What I can say is that the cost - benefit could contribute to such a decision. There is a cost of translation, review of the label for Canadian requirements, printing of labels, the labour to stick on the label. This has to be balanced with pricing and volume considerations.
We are in conversations with our US brands and they will work to correct labelling or make a decision to not sell in Canada.
What about the Canadian brands you carry?
We sell some incredible Canadian brands. Many of these brands are also sold in other stores or Amazon Canada. I ask that you continue to support / buy from them.
This is something I'm super sad about, but also realize that our U.S. brands do contribute a larger % of revenue, as many of those brands are carried exclusively by SwitchGrocery in Canada.
Where can I shop for the foods I want?
For US brands, you can contact them directly and they will give you an update on the label process and timeline. I know in ordering directly from the US, you can be served customs fees. I'm sorry but we are unable to help with that. Our preliminary estimates for label updates are 3 - 6 months.
For Canadian brands, you can use store locator and find a store near you, search on Amazon Canada or order from their site.
This is so unfair!
I agree. I don't think there is a level playing field for small grocery stores to compete with the larger grocery stores. We are an independent grocery store. We don't charge listing fees (i.e. a fee charged by larger retailers to carry products on shelf). All the brands we carry are small-mid size brands. The additional complication here is that label requirements do contribute to increased costs. With the current inflation, it is challenging for small - mid size brands to make this investment because ultimately someone has to pay for it.
I also have yet to understand why as part of USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement, the new NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement), why there isn't alignment on labelling in all 3 countries to encourage free flow of goods across the borders.
I can spend time talking about the state of the food industry that I have had a inside out look at for the past 7 years.
Or I can look forward, work with our suppliers and do the best I can do with what I have. This is what I plan to do. Look forward. Flip the Switch.
How is your team doing?
SwitchGrocery is a family owned business and a small team. We are very sad that we have to pause our store. This decision was very hard to arrive at and it has impacted livelihoods and jobs. We know our team will be okay because they are smart, kind, capable and have learned an incredible set of skills working at SwitchGrocery that they will take to their next jobs.
How are your suppliers doing?
We are still having conversations with our suppliers as this all happened fast. It is sad, that is all I will say. A business is so much more than money - it is a network of people, materials, labour, dollars, taxes and pausing our store impacts this network.
How are you personally doing?
Thank you for asking this. First of all, I am personally so grateful to our customers. You have been with us for 7 years and we have built quite the business together. It's of mix of sadness and optimism. There's some frustration, anger, tears. There's also gratitude and hope. Every company goes through its own journey and this pause will be important for us as founders to evaluate our company and how we can come back stronger.
How can we support you?
There are 3 ways that you can support us.
1. We would love if you took advantage of our store pausing sale of 30% off. This will help us a lot! I would sincerely appreciate if you can share this sale as we post it on social media. Please note: We are doing no refunds, exchanges or store credits as a part of this final sale. I'm so sorry but SwitchRewards are no longer able to be used.
3. Come to our last Live Weekly show on August 15th, 2023. I'll be live on all platforms Tuesday 8:15pm ET / 5:15pm PT.
4. Be there when we Flip the Switch!
What's your plan?
We will sell down everything we have. Then we will pause the store. Work behind the scenes for the next 3 - 6 months with our suppliers and on our operations. Take a vacation maybe? I'll keep you posted.
We are so grateful to the people who have stood by our company, supported our company, supported us as co-founders, attended our meetups, left us reviews, emailed a kind word, shown us patience. You have helped create a beautiful legacy and we are forever grateful to you. Honestly, we lucked out. We have the best customer friends.
Which is why we are so heavily motivated to come back. It's time to Flip The Switch!
Neha & Bryan
Shop our store pausing sale.
We love you!
Last Live Show with more details