Walmart enters Atlantic Canada's grocery wars with Supercentre

A major food fight is brewing in Atlantic Canada – and it’s definitely going to impact property development in the region. Heating up the battle was the July opening of Walmart Canada’s first Supercentre in the region.
More than 300 people lined up before the renovated Halifax store opened to check out the new-to-Atlantic Canada concept and to purchase fresh produce, meats, fish, diary and other foods at cut-rate prices.
Between 15 to 20 per cent of the 145,000-square-foot store in the Halifax Shopping Centre is now devoted to groceries.
“Growth plan has always been around food”
“The growth plan for Walmart in Canada has always been around food,” said Alex Roberton, Walmart Canada’s director of corporate affairs and social media. “So it’s adding fresh groceries to locations where we can, where there’s demand, and where it makes sense.”
The re-opening of the store arrives just ahead of Target’s entrance into the Atlantic Canada market. When Target begins opening locations in former Zellers stores in the region, the American retailer will carry groceries as well.
Combined with the recent consolidations and purchases on the part of Loblaw and Sobeys, a major price war is shaping up.

John Torella, a senior partner with the Toronto-based retail consultancy J.C. Williams Group, said: “I think it’s going to be hyper-competitive and with that competition hopefully comes value for the end consumer.
“They’re going to have a lot more choice. They’re going to be able to be fairly selective, and I think it’s going to be a battle of the brands and only the mighty will survive.”
Walmart currently has 18 stores in Nova Scotia, 13 in New Brunswick, 11 in Newfoundland and another two in Prince Edward Island.
Walmart plans to convert another nine of those N.S. and N.B. stores into Supercentres during its fiscal year-end of Jan. 31, 2014. Across Canada, the retailer is adding 37 new Supercentres, representing a $450-million investment.
Works with several developers
Walmart works with a number of developers, but Roberton was unable to specify who the retailer is partnered with in Atlantic Canada.
“It depends on the project site,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have only one developer for the whole region.”
Roberton said Walmart develops Supercentres in several different ways. They may build a brand new store, but just as often they’ll expand an existing location, adding up to 30,000 sq. ft. for the fresh grocery section.
If it’s an expansion, the store will have two doors, one directing customers straight into the grocery section, while the second leads to the general merchandise.
The third method is an in-box conversion, where the grocery store is placed in the middle of the existing retail outlet.
Walmart evaluates the capacity of every store and if it decides an outlet needs to expand, it uses the opportunity to add a grocery section. If a store is situated in a mall, Walmart may not be able to expand, and might instead carry out an in-box conversion.
Supercentres are placed in areas of greatest need; “Where our customers might be looking for another destination for fresh groceries,” Roberton said.
Walmart also determines if the area’s population base is sufficiently large and whether necessary infrastructure is in place to add a Supercentre.
Refreshing a store might mean reconfiguring the merchandise layout, adding LED lighting, changing the signage and floor surfaces, and re-evaluating the overall layout to make the store easier to navigate.
First Supercentre in Ontario
Walmart opened the first Canadian Supercentre in Ontario in 2006 and then expanded West. Two years ago, Quebec received its first Supercentre and now the retailer is setting its sights on Atlantic Canada.
Walmart’s format is only one in a rapidly changing market, according to Torella. He believes the best approach for retailers is a portfolio of brands with different footprints targeted to specific segments.
Torella cites convenience stores, pop-up stores, kiosks, mega-stores, traditional supermarkets and e-commerce as all equally viable in today’s competitive market.
“All that’s saying is, the customer wants it their way or the highway,'' he says.
“You’d better be able to really adapt to the idiosyncrasies of those segments, and the segments are even becoming micro-segments.”
Torella cites Tesco as an example of a winning brand. The British retailer is flexible with its store formats, adapting to market need.
“Within a trade area, they have everything from hyper-markets to convenience stores to everything in-between,” Torella said.



A multiple award-winning reporter, writer and editor for more than 25 years, Charles Mandel most recently worked as the National Observer's climate change reporter. He is a former Atlantic correspondent…

Read more

A multiple award-winning reporter, writer and editor for more than 25 years, Charles Mandel most recently worked as the National Observer's climate change reporter. He is a former Atlantic correspondent…

Read more




Industry Events