TORONTO _ The New Brunswick government is giving struggling retailer Sears Canada Inc. $3.5 million to open a business centre in the province that’s expected to create 180 new jobs.
The centre, to be located in the city of Edmundston, N.B., will be home to positions such as business services agents, information technology support and human resources personnel.
Sears executive chairman Brandon Stranzl wouldn’t disclose how much Sears Canada (TSX:SCC) is investing in the centre but said it’s not a money-saving initiative. Rather, it’s meant to improve customer service.
He said the company’s current business centre operations are based mostly in the Philippines, but the Edmundston jobs would be in addition to those located abroad.
Sears struggled during the holiday season, its Facebook page filled with customer service complaints from shoppers. Many of the critiques centred around Christmas gifts not arriving on time and delays in refunds.
The New Brunswick workers will be trained differently than those handling the majority of customer service complaints now, Stranzl said. The new employees will focus on putting the customer first.
“We’ve got to create world-class customer service,” said Stranzl. “That’s why we’re taking these steps.”
Sears has already started recruitment and training, and expects the centre to be operational this spring.
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said in a statement that the business service sector will continue to create jobs for locals.
The province’s unemployment rate as of last month was 9.4 percentage points, according to Statistics Canada. That’s 2.5 percentage points above the national average.
The bulk of the government funding comes from Opportunities NB, which will contribute $2.2 million in payroll rebates and loans, with the remaining $850,000 from the Regional Development Corp. and $458,000 from the ministry of post-secondary education, training and labour.