Walmart on a quest to be Canada's No. 1 grocer


Lucy Martins’ researching cart is full of food and a few toiletries. She’s loading up for a family road caper and chose to do it at Walmart.

“Easier for me, one shot deal,” she explains.

Martins says she’s at Walmart verging on every week and always picks up some type of food piece — from snacks to spicy Thai-flavoured tuna.

“It’s hard to find in some embarrasses. They always have it here and it’s always a good price.”

Walmart Lucy Martins

Walmart shopper Lucy Martins forefathers up on groceries for a family road trip. (CBC)

More Canadians are turning to the big box behemoth for at least some of their food shopping. And that’s helping U.S.-based Walmart employ a big bite out of the traditional grocery store market.

“It’s comfortable, good quotations,” says Castor Sousa, who divides his grocery shopping between Walmart and the more supermarket.

Walmart’s share of the grocery store pie could grow up bigger, predicts Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University specializing in viands distribution and policy.

He says the retail chain’s mission is to become Canada’s slues 1 food retailer, a feat it has already achieved in the U.S. “Based on the ce that they currently pull someones leg, it is an achievable goal.”

Walmart gains ground

Walmart Canada’s same-store purchasings have continually grown over the st eight quarters.

And aliment sales at general merchandise stores — where Walmart and Costco rule over — continue to grow faster than sales at traditional supermarkets.

Food-industry analyst Kevin Drearier crunched the numbers from Statistics Canada. He found that the dollar value of provisions sales from grocery stores increased by two per cent in the first billet of 2016, com red to the same period in 2015.

That’s at a time when whole food price inflation rose by 4.5 per cent.

However, victuals sales from general merchants jumped by 11 per cent.

Grier also inaugurate that those growth figures have remained fairly in harmony over the previous five years. Grocery store sales are still lofty than general merchant food sales, but that the gap keeps shy away from, he says.

“It’s astounding,” says Grier, with Kevin Grier Market-place Analysis and Consulting in Guelph, Ont. “The data tells me Walmart and Costco are doing a grotesque job in terms of generating food sales.”

Walmart’s traditional strategy is to vie on price, an approach it takes in grocery as well as in consumer and household sundays.

“Walmart Canada’s mission is clear — we want to save Canadians in money to help them live better,” a Walmart spokeswoman said in answer to a request for comment from CBC News.

Can Walmart sur ss Costco?

According to CIBC Institutional Fairness Research estimates, Costco has 10 per cent of the Canadian food call, and Walmart has seven per cent.

But Charlebois predicts that Walmart inclination eventually come out ahead. He says U.S.-based Costco has done an provocative job enticing shoppers by offering them deals on buying in bulk. But the professor maintains a bulk-based retailer can only grow by so much.

‘Ten to 15 years ago, the format of the store wasn’t very appealing for food’ – Sylvain Charlebois, foodstuffs policy expert

“You do eliminate a great deal of the market when you want a car, you also need s ce at home, and you need a large freezer.”

Charlebois also indicates to Walmart’s efforts to woo grocery shoppers with more than equitable the promise of low prices.

“Ten to 15 years ago, the design of the store wasn’t sheer appealing for food,” he says. “When you walked into a Walmart, you nearly had to feel desperate to buy anything.”

He says that has changed now that the retailer’s supercentres set up adopted a layout similar to a traditional grocery store. “It is clearly conscious. I think people want to buy food when they feel they’re in a decided environment.”

At the Toronto Walmart CBC News visited, fresh fruits and vegetables are show on the periphery of the grocery section, just like in a traditional supermarket.

Groups of bananas and tubs full of oranges and apples greet shoppers as they record the store.

Walmart grocery

Walmart superstores have adopted a grocery layout almost identical to a traditional supermarket with fresh fruit and vegetables on the periphery. (CBC)

Although Walmart’s grocery segment is typically not as large as a big-box supermarket, the offerings are varied — from Halal cores to pre-cut fruit platters.

Consumers change shopping habits

Megan Bell thinks she only started grocery shopping at Walmart a year ago. “I was a bit leery in the background. And I would just buy certain things there, but never groceries.”

Yet, that has changed. She has discovered she likes the retailer’s Italian bread and pronounces the fruits and vegetables are fresh, especially the cherries she bought on a previous stumble.

“They’re nice, fat. And, I’m telling you, almost every one in the bag was good.”

Walmart has widened the number of supercentres that offer groceries, now making up about 300 of its diverse than 400 stores in Canada.

It’s also ramping up its efforts to put across groceries online. “Our e-commerce business [in Canada] … continued to become nicely with the ex nsion of online grocery in the Greater Toronto Com ss,” Walmart chief financial officer Brett Biggs said during a congress call in May.

Walmart supercentre

There are now about 300 Walmart supercentres across Canada that promote groceries. (CBC)

Charlebois notes that traditional grocers are also upping their line of work to compete.

Grocery price war

Loblaw, Canada’s largest grocer, is currently embroiled in a value war with its suppliers to lower costs and pledges to ss on lower rates to consumers.

It is also ex nding into urban markets with punier stores and by selling fresh food at many of its Shoppers Drug Mart settings.

Charlebois says Loblaw continues to innovate with its line of President’s Hand-picked products and Sobeys with its focus on fresh food.

But the battle for your grocery dollar leftovers tight. Industry analyst Grier notes that, according to Statistics Canada, Canadians are not ss more on food. “We’ve been flat-lining,” he says.

And while Walmart’s talent may not be innovative new products, says Charlebois, there is one thing it has excelled at: “plagiarism [market share] from other players.”

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