Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest retailer responses in Canada

Stewart Samuel
Program Director - Canada
@RetailAnalysis

Date : 20 April 2020

We detail the latest initiatives from Canada’s leading food retailers in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Loblaw

  • Food stores: it has reduced store hours and limited the number of customers in its busiest stores. The retailer is also moving some service departments, such as seafood, to offer pre-packed products only. It has also stated that it will not change its actions or prices to take advantage of the pandemic and has installed plexiglass checkout shields and other measures to support social-distancing 
  • Drugstores: within its Shoppers Drug Mart network, the retailer has partnered with Maple, a tech-based platform, to launch a virtual care service. The aim is to relieve the current burden on the acute healthcare system, specifically emergency rooms and hospitals. Where virtual care is not funded by provincial governments, Shoppers Drug Mart will fund online physician consults at no cost to patients. Shoppers Drug Mart has also partnered with SilverCloud Health to offer Canadians a free virtual stress management programme
  • Online: Loblaw has also reduced delivery fees and eliminated pickup fees for its PC Express online grocery service. It is aiming to add further capacity to these services. The retailer has also made online video content around meal preparation, which was previously part of the benefits package for members of its PC Insiders initiative, available on open access
  • Associates: it is temporarily increasing compensation for its store and distribution centre associates by approximately 15% retroactive to March 8th in recognition of their outstanding and ongoing efforts
  • Community: through the President's Choice Children's Charity, it has released $10m in funding to feed hungry children in need and is donating $5m in the form of gift cards to support charities feeding vulnerable communities

Sobeys

  • Stores: following an unprecedented increase in customer visits, Sobeys moved quickly to provide the elderly and the vulnerable with a calm, relaxed shopping environment. Following an initiative from one of its franchise partners to introduce a special shopping hour, the concept has been scaled across the company. The retailer has eliminated the sale of bulk baked goods and bulk foods. The retailer has installed plexiglass barriers at store checkouts. The retailer has also installed floor-stickers indicating a two-metre distance that shoppers should maintain when queuing. Planned store conversions and new openings for its FreshCo and Farm Boy formats are being placed on hold 
  • Online: the retailer is accelerating the launch of its ecommerce service in the Greater Toronto Area
  • Supply chain: some suppliers have re-routed deliveries direct to stores where it has been more efficient to do so. Sobeys is also supporting 13,000 smaller suppliers with shorter payment terms, with automatic 14-day payments for local farmers and fisheries, repair and maintenance firms and waste collection companies 
  • Associates: it has introduced a 'Hero Pay Program' for associates in stores and distribution centres, providing increased levels of compensation to the end of April when the initiative will be reassessed
  • Community: the retailer is waiving rent for all small business tenants in its owned mall properties  

Metro

  • Stores: the retailer has introduced limited shopping hours, social-distancing measures, efforts to support vulnerable shoppers and enhanced cleaning protocols. In Quebec, stores have been closed on Sunday as part of a provincial wide mandate
  • Online: the retailer’s president and CEO, Eric La Flèche, also highlighted efforts being taken to increase the capacity of its online delivery and pickup services
  • Supply chain: Metro has also been focused on its supply chain. While some ranges have been rationalised, it is confident that most product categories are in-stock following a significant spike in sales, starting last month
  • Community: the retailer has made a $2m donation to support issues of food insecurity and access to other essential services 

Walmart

  • Stores: in a letter to customers, Walmart Canada’s president and CEO, Haio Barbeito, highlighted its efforts to replenish high-demand products including hand sanitizer, paper products, cleaning supplies and non-perishables. The opening hour of stores has been dedicated exclusively for seniors, the disabled and those with vulnerable health conditions. It is recruiting 10,000 more associates to work in its stores and distribution centres
  • Online: the retailer is aiming to triple its online fulfillment capacity. to help Canadians self-isolate, changes have been made to Walmart.ca to allow grocery home deliveries to be left at customers' doors
  • Associates: existing associates are being provided with an 'Appreciation Bonus' and a 'Thank You Premium', along with an enhanced discount programme. It is also providing associates with access to live online physician care and accelerating annual bonus payments 
  • Community: the retailer is donating $1m to its charity partners and the Walmart Foundation is investing $1m for meeting immediate needs in Canada 

Save-on-Foods

  • Stores: Canada’s fifth-largest grocery retailer, Save-On-Foods, has also seen a dramatic increase in customer visits and sales. President Darrell Jones highlighted the strain on its supply chain that over-buying is causing, urging shoppers to purchase only what their families need. To enable it to improve the in-store experience, it has reduced its operating hours to 8am to 8pm. It has also introduced a dedicated shopping hour from 7am to 8am for senior shoppers, those with disabilities or who are vulnerable
  • Associates: It is providing associates with an additional $2 per hour, noting their contribution to keeping stores trading during this challenging period 

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