Citing challenges in the retail market, the United Farmers of Alberta Co-operative Ltd. (UFA) has announced plans to close all 12 of its Wholesale Sports stores, including the Calgary location on Heritage Meadows Way Southeast, with plans to liquidate all stock by the end of 2017.

“The stores closed early (Thursday) so we could meet with employees and communicate with them about what the situation was,” said Carol Kitchen, president and CEO of UFA.  We have engaged a third party and tomorrow the stores will open again to begin a liquidation process that we expect to be completed by December 28.”

According to Kitchen, the roughly 550 employees of Wholesale Sports in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will keep their jobs throughout the liquidation but, for the majority of the staff, their employment will cease when the stores close for good.

Kitchen says the decision to close Wholesale Sports was made by UFA’s board and management and was spurred by increased competition from big box competitors (including Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops), the shift from in-store purchases to online purchases and a reduction in discretionary consumer spending.

The president and CEO of UFA expressed her gratitude to the staff and customers of Wholesale Sports during a Thursday evening phone interview with CTV Calgary. “We have a large number of employees whose jobs are impacted but we have customers too and they have relied on Wholesale Sports for a long time for these categories of products. We were one of the few Canadian-owned companies in this space and we don’t like the fact that we have to exit it.”

UFA has owned Wholesale Sports since 2008. As of Thursday, the Wholesale Sports website will no longer offer items for purchase but all existing orders will be filled.