Important COVID-19 updates for our customers

North West Company Response to Covid-19

Pillar 2Better Quality of Life for our Customers

At A Glance

Building partnerships

We worked with a vast array of new suppliers, 66 transportation partners, 120 community leaders and government officials to ensure a steady and reliable source of most products, despite supply chain disruptions across the industry for our stores.

100+ remote pharmacists

100+ remote pharmacists working in The North West Telepharmacy service, the largest of its kind in Canada. The service provides extended online coverage for smaller hospitals, health centres and health telephone lines.

Additional air cargo capacity

We leveraged our air cargo service, “North Star Air” (NSA), the largest dedicated provider in northern Canada to meet increased demand. NSA added significant aircraft capacity to handle increased demand, including bringing an additional owned ATR-72 500 aircraft into service in May.

19 in-store pharmacies

19 in-store pharmacies delivered extended treatment services, helping to alleviate demands on other community health providers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Quality of Life Overview


The global pandemic reinforced The North West Company’s role as a provider of essential products and services in the rural and remote communities in which we operate. Our teams worked tirelessly to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers, committing substantial time and resources to ensure that our supply chain and retail network could consistently deliver better quality of life for our customers.

We are especially proud of how we have risen to higher levels of community responsibility while keeping our focus on fast-shifting customer needs. At all North West retail locations, our COVID-19 response included enhanced cleanliness and sanitization procedures, requiring the wearing of face masks, proper physical distancing, and offering curbside pickup and home delivery services in high-risk communities.

Our efforts are balanced between immediate reactions to the pandemic and work that will make us a more compelling shopping choice in the years ahead. As we confront the changes the pandemic brings, we continue to strive to be a reliable and safe presence in the communities we serve.

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Commitments, Goals, Performance, and Next Steps

COMMITMENT: Provide reliable access to everyday products and services that are as affordable as possible and that meet the lifestyle needs of our customers.

Goals Action steps taken in 2020
Promote and invest in affordable and accessible healthy food options for customers in our stores.
  1. Advocated for a $25M expansion of the Nutrition North Canada program in response to the global pandemic. Investments by the Government of Canada and The North West Company have enabled the program to generate significant retail savings since 2011, despite annual inflation rates over the same period.
  2. Northern and NorthMart stores committed to keeping retail prices stable for a 60-day period amid initial pandemic-induced, industry-wide shortages and supply disruptions. Our efforts to keep prices stable is an ongoing effort.
  3. North West initiated a $10M annualized investment to help further reduce prices over a 12–18-month period.
  4. North West continued to promote better nutrition and healthier food options to stores in North America through our Health Happy program, increasing sales of more than 800 items by 9.27%.
  5. Alaska Commercial Company (ACC) assembled and delivered 30,000 boxes of fresh produce and 30,000 boxes of dairy items to 86 communities across rural Alaska.
Enhance the in-store experience for customers through our Pure Retail and COVID-19 response initiatives
  1. Improved process efficiencies and reduced store-labour hours, enabling retail management and associates to better serve customers and reduce costs through the Pure Retail planning initiative.
  2. Introduced e-commerce and curbside pickup at all store locations to promote community safety and enhance the customer shopping experience.
  3. Provided Elders in remote communities with free delivery service during COVID-19 lockdowns.
  4. Based on community and customer requests, key items were rationed to ensure more customers were able to purchase staple goods.
  5. Partnered with more than 180 suppliers, transporters and community organizations to ensure a reliable supply chain for our customers.
  6. Pharmacists adapted their practice to limit exposure and keep communities safe by expanding operating hours through evenings and weekends, prescribing for minor ailments, administering flu shots, and delivering medications to patients at checkpoints.
Ensure that Indigenous peoples have equitable access to business development opportunities at North West
  1. Employed an Indigenous Procurement Policy to promote Indigenous business development opportunities.

COMMITMENT: Supported calls from northern communities to provide access to quality health care for northern, remote communities.

Goals Action steps taken in 2020
Advocate for improvements to the Nutrition North program and other social programs that impact our operating communities.
  1. Advocated for priority access to essential grocery items and cleaning supplies for Northern communities in response to industry-wide shortages at the onset of the pandemic, and in consultation with stakeholders in the North.
  2. Heeded customer demand for greater access to quality health care for northern, remote communities.
  3. With northern Indigenous community support and guidance, we campaigned for higher Nutrition North Canada and seasonal transportation subsidies for a range of food items. This resulted in items becoming more accessible and affordable for our customers in the North.