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Grocers and general merchandisers dominate retail sales in Canada: Report

Top five players account for 36% of all national retail sales
Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock


Canada’s grocery game is going strong.

In the latest retail rankings by the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA) at Ryerson University, the top five retail conglomerates operate in the grocery and general merchandise space: George Weston Ltd., Costco, Empire Company Ltd., Walmart Stores Inc., and Metro Inc.

The “The CSCA Retail 100” report for fiscal 2018/2019 ranks the top 100 retail conglomerates and top 100 retail chains operating in Canada by total estimated annual retail sales.

The retail sales breakdown of the top five conglomerates is as follows: George Weston Ltd. (Shoppers Drug Mart, The Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws): $45.83 billion; Costco Inc.: $26.68 billion; Empire Company Ltd. (Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Farm Boy): $25.14 billion; Walmart Stores Inc. (Walmart Supercentres, Walmart): $24.01 billion; and Metro Inc. (Metro, Food Basics, Metro Plus, Jean Coutu Pharmacy): $14.38 billion.

The report notes these top five dominate Canada’s retail economy, with 36% of national retail sales.

The top five retail chains are: Costco ($26.68 billion); Walmart Supercentres ($24.01 billion); Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix ($12.57 billion); The Real Canadian Superstore ($8.98 billion) and The Home Depot ($8.4 billion).

“Grocery and general merchandise retailers have topped the list of leading retail conglomerates in Canada for many years,” says Tony Hernandez, director and Eaton chair in retailing at the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA) at Ryerson University.

Next year’s fiscal report could even further solidify their dominance, as grocery sales have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hernandez notes that while “eat-out or order-in retail foodservice” has been a growing trend for a number of years, the pandemic has left restaurants largely limited to online delivery and curbside pickup. At the same time, grocers were elevated to the status of essential service.

“This intervention by the government changed consumer behaviour literally overnight, and we’ve seen a marked shift back to prepared-at-home meals,” says Hernandez. “As a result, Canadian grocers have seen sizeable sales lifts through the pandemic, albeit against higher operating costs, which will be reflected in fiscal reporting going forward.”

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