Sobeys was founded in Stellarton, Nova Scotia by John W. Sobey in 1907 as a meat delivery business.
In 1924, alongside his son Frank H. Sobey, the company expanded into a full grocery business which served the Pictou County region.
Sobeys opened its first self-serve supermarket in 1949. It is now the second largest food retailer in Canada, with over 260 supermarkets and approximately 1,500 more stores under a variety of banners.
During the post-War period, the chain expanded throughout Atlantic Canada and during the rest of the century it became the region's major grocery chain.
By the late 1980s, it had expanded westwards and became the second largest retailer of its type when it purchased the Oshawa Group, owners of the IGA franchise across Canada among other stores.
In 2005, Sobeys lost a bidding war with Quebec-based Metro to acquire A&P Canada, operator of several Ontario supermarket chains to The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. It was said that the Sobey family was unwilling to cede any control to the Tengelmann Group, the ultimate parent company of A&P at the time.
Just two years later, Sobeys bought the Thrifty Foods chain in British Columbia for $260milion.
In 2011, Sobeys' wholesale division signed a long-term distribution agreement with American retailer Target for the
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supply of select food and grocery products to its Canadian stores, and the growth continues apace. In 2012, Sobeys acquired 236 Shell gas station locations in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
In 2013, Sobeys announced the purchase of Safeway's Canadian operations for $5.8 billion, and its 214 locations, primarily located in Western Canada. The competitions commission did however make them sell 23 stores. It later closed 60 under-performing stores.