Canada's largest supermarket chains Loblaw, Metro, Sobeys intend to focus on differentiation, innovation to fend off Target, Wal-Mart, including loyalty card programs, smaller store designs, focusing on customer insights

LOS ANGELES , April 3, 2012 () – Loblaw Companies Ltd., Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc.—the largest conventional supermarket chains in Canada—intend to focus on differentiation and innovation to fend off competition, Supermarket News reported April 2.

Along with Target Corp.’s impending arrival in the Canadian retail market in early 2013, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is currently implementing a large-scale conversion program to change its discount stores into supercenters. In addition, Wal-Mart is adding new store locations at a rate of roughly 40 per year.

At a CIBC Retail and Consumer Conference during the week of April 25, representatives for Loblaw, Metro and Sobeys all spoke regarding their plans for the next several years. According to CIBC World Markets analyst Perry Caicco, the Canadian retail market will become more competitive during the next two-three years.

Loblaw President Vincente Trius said that the company is planning to focus on becoming more customer-centric, and noted that customers tend to challenge Loblaw in terms of service and consistency. Beginning in 2013, Loblow will launch its own growth program.

Trius said that he expected Loblaw would be able to maintain its share of the Canadian food market. He projected that the company will have an annual organic growth rate of roughly 500,000 square feet. In 2013, it intends to introduce a loyalty program. The company’s Joe Fresh apparel line also provides growth opportunities. Loblaw may additionally experiment with stores that feature a smaller design format.

Metro Chief Executive Officer Eric LaFleche said that the company will focus on differentiating itself from the competition in terms of its fresh food departments in both discount and conventional store locations.

Sobeys Chief Executive Officer Bill McEwan said that his company will focus on productivity initiatives, and its “best in food” positioning in order to fend off the competition. The company will emphasize customer insights and, via acquisitions, will enhance overall offerings. Recently, Sobyes completed its purchase of Shell gasoline stations.

The primary source of this article is Supermarket News, New York, New York, on April 2, 2012.

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