Diversity and inclusion

Creating a more welcoming store with Anne

April 4, 2024

Anne stands inside her store with other colleagues wearing their language pins.

When the enterprise approached Anne Fontaine about piloting a Language Pin program at the Winnipeg Real Canadian Superstore® location where she’s the Store Manager, she knew right away that it would be a winning idea.  

“We've worked in this environment for a very long time, and so many of our colleagues are not from Canada and speak different languages. The diversity in our colleagues is amazing. And then our customer base is not just English-speaking people, so you could tell right away that it was going to be helpful,” she says. “It's not always easy being in a grocery store and not knowing the language, so it’s great to be able to show them that we understand.” 

As part of the program, colleagues wear pins identifying the languages they speak in the language they speak, which is a key difference from other, similar programs.   

“Back in the day, colleagues might wear a pin saying they can speak Spanish or Tagalog, but it would be a small pin, and in English. So I really do think these badges are making a big difference from the customer's point of view,” she explains. 

In fact, she’s already seen a super positive response from customers who speak Spanish, Ukrainian, Farsi and dozens of other languages. One customer always seeks out a particular manager who’s from Cuba and can help her find things in the store. Similarly, two women from Ukraine regularly ask a Ukrainian-speaking colleague for help finding the products they’re used to using back home, or the Canadian equivalents. The language pins have even come in handy during emergencies.  

“We had a colleague help a customer who had injured herself,” she says. “She translated everything for the ambulance drivers! So, the program is helping the customers overall; it's been a great experience.” 

It’s not just customers who are benefitting from the new program, though. Anne says among store colleagues, the pins have offered opportunities for bonding and team building.   

“The day we got the pins in was super exciting. I remember everyone was putting them on, and it was neat to see all the different languages that were in the store—languages I didn't even know existed, which was really fun. Sometimes colleagues hadn’t even realized that they spoke the same language, so I found that the connections in the lunch room even got better with the language program, before it even affected my customers,” she says.  

For a relatively small change, the impact has been huge—and to Anne, it’s clear there are benefits beyond the practical. 

“The world is hard, right? So if we can make something just a little bit easier for our customer—if they can find that comfort food that they want, or something that reminds them of their heritage, or helps them share their culture with their children, it can make such a big difference in their day-to-day life,” she says. “They can say, ‘Hey, this is something my grandma made every day for breakfast,’ or that kind of thing. It's heartwarming and, I think it improves everybody's life.”