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

OPINION: Ten signs that Port Alice has changed

“Right now, our lack of amenities is holding back economic growth in our village”

Striking Western Forest Products workers could lose benefits in September

Union, forest company at odds over Vancouver Island benefit payments as strike enters third month

Port McNeill council discusses ‘bear aware’ and what you can do to stay safe

Port McNeill’s Conservation Officer Brad Adams gave a presentation about being ‘bear aware’.

Port Hardy RCMP release tips to prevent fraud and theft from vehicles

In many of the incidents reported, “the vehicles that were broken into were unlocked.”

Stranded hikers rescued by helicopter on Mt. Schoen

Campbell River Search and Rescue used hoist operation to rescue trio

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Cross-examination begins for B.C. dad accused of killing young daughters

Andrew Berry is charged in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey in 2017

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Most Read