Loblaws closing 22 stores, launching home delivery ahead of ‘difficult year’

“We are excited about our future. But…we expect 2018 will be a difficult year,” said Galen G. Weston, Loblaw CEO.

Loblaw Companies Ltd. is closing 22 stores and launching home delivery in two major Canadian cities, ahead of what it believes will be a challenging new year.

The grocery and pharmacy giant has finalized a plan that will result in the closure of 22 unprofitable stores across a range of its banners and formats, said spokeswoman Catherine Thomas in an email, who declined to provide specific store locations. The store closures are expected to be mostly complete by the end of the first quarter next year.

“We are excited about our future. But given all of the headwinds, we expect 2018 will be a very difficult year,” said Galen G. Weston, Loblaw CEO, during a call with analysts following the company’s earnings report.

Canadian grocers face increasing pressure from several fronts, including discount and online retailers, and pending minimum wage increases in some provinces.

Loblaw has already made several moves in recent months that some analysts attribute, at least in part, to cost pressures. The company recently announced a new handling fee on its largest suppliers and announced last month that it was laying off 500 employees from its office operations. The company did not immediately answer whether that figure encompassed the job losses from the upcoming store closures.

The retailer is also doubling down on its e-commerce offerings, including launching home delivery with California-based Instacart in Toronto starting Dec. 6 and Vancouver starting January 2018.

Shoppers will order from local Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore or T&T locations via the Instacart website or app and the company will deliver the food.

“This is a premium service targeted at customers who are looking for the ultimate in convenience,” Weston said.

Deliveries will cost $3.99 for orders of $35 or more — that jumps to $5.99 for one-hour drop off — and $7.99 for orders under $35, said Nilam Ganenthiran, Instacart’s chief business officer.

Customers will also pay a 7.5-per-cent service fee, said Thomas, adding prices will be higher online than in stores and shoppers will see different sales on Instacart than in physical locations. Shoppers won’t be able to order alcohol online, or earn or redeem PC Plus points through Instacart.

Loblaw, which said in 2016 it had no plans to launch home delivery due to lack of customer demand, plans to expand the program rapidly next year.

In the U.S., Instacart aims to serve 80 per cent of households, said Ganenthiran. It will aim to do the same in Canada, which would require a presence in about 20 to 25 cities, he said. That could include partnerships with other grocers in the future.

Canadians currently have few options for grocery deliveries, with companies like Grocery Gateway and select large chains offering the service in limited locations. Walmart, for example, announced in March it would start delivering groceries to customers living in certain parts of Toronto and the surrounding area.

Most grocers, including Loblaw and Walmart, have opted to focus heavily on in-store pick-up for online orders instead. Loblaw launched its click-and-collect offering in 2014 and now offers it at nearly 200 locations. Weston said the company remains very committed to the program and is opening a new location nearly daily.

However, Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods Market increased speculation that Canada’s grocers would have to step up on home delivery offerings.

Weston said that recent initiatives, including combining PC Plus and Shopper Optimum points into a harmonized loyalty program beginning in February, expanding click and collect and launching home delivery, are key ingredients in the company’s strategy “to compete and win in a rapidly changing and increasingly digital world.”

Loblaw reported that it more than doubled its third-quarter profit compared with a year ago as its results were boosted by the sale of its gas bar business.

The retailer said its profit attributable to common shareholders totalled $883 million or $2.24 per diluted share for the 16 weeks ended Oct. 7. That compared with a profit of $419 million or $1.03 per diluted share for the same period last year.

Revenue totalled $14.19 billion, up from $14.14 billion in the third quarter of 2016.

The results included a $432-million gain on the sale of the company’s gas station business to Brookfield Business Partners.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Upgrade project on Chemainus Road set to begin

Busines community concerned about disruptions

Burning season has arrived in the Cowichan Valley Regional District, but beware of bylaws

It’s officially burning season in the Cowichan Valley Regional District, as residents… Continue reading

Francophone parents hoping to set up a French school in the Valley

Their children have a right to be educated in French, these parents say

UPDATE: Missing Duncan teen Cera Qwulshemut found safe

15-year-old First Nations girl missing from in front of Shoppers Drug Mart

VIDEO: Climate change, veterans, tax cuts: it was all there at Lake Cowichan all-candidates debate

All six candidates faced off in the final Cowichan Valley debate of this federal election season

Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake

A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend

Rare bird spotted in Victoria draws enthusiasts from across the continent

It’s the first time a yellow-browed warbler has been reported on the mainland of North America

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

App designed to help cut waste and grocery bills

Food security advocates say addressing poverty is ultimate key

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

B.C. scouting group’s tent destroyed by black bear on Thanksgiving

The Richmond-based Sea Dragon Sea Scouts were camping at Mount Seymour Provincial Park

Environment Canada issues gale warnings for western Vancouver Island

Gale warnings in effect for most of Vancouver Island and west coast Mainland

Most Read