GroceryConnex ‘22: What we learned in a conversation with Loblaw’s Greg Ramier

Market division president for Loblaw Companies Limited talks labour, technology and what the future holds for grocery retailers
grocery connex 2022
Greg Ramier. Photography by John Goldstein

Greg Ramier, market division president for Loblaw Companies Limited, sat down with Canadian Grocer editor-in-chief Shellee Fitzgerald at GroceryConnex Monday (Nov. 21) to share his insights on the biggest challenges and opportunities for retailers.

Held at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, the full day event brought together leaders and key decision makers from within the grocery industry. This year’s theme of Future Forward zeroed in on where the industry is heading, what’s driving it and where change needs to happen.

Canadian Grocer compiled key takeaways from the interview with Ramier around hiring strategies, consumer behaviour, leveraging data and more. 

Staying power

There may not be one quick fix to the problem of high turnover, but Ramier said there’s some steps grocers can take to hold on to in-store staff. 

“Everything’s hard right now,” he said. “Especially if you have large groups of people that work for you in retail…Turnover is much higher than it ever has been.”

Retailers can alleviate some of the pressure of the labour crunch by tightening the onboarding process, providing mentorship and fostering a team environment, Ramier explained. But the most important piece is finding people that are passionate about grocery. 

“It’s really important in that hiring process that you find people that are good fits for this industry,” he said. “Strangely, what I mean by that is you have to love selling food, and you have to love stores, and you have to love people. You hire those people and they stay.”

Elevating the in-store experience

Consumer behaviour is changing, but for conventional grocers, value and experience are still king. 

“Everybody’s value-focused, but as a conventional retailer you can’t let your experience become secondary,” Ramier told GroceryConnex attendees. “Your experience always has to be better and better.”

That means better service, product assortment, speciality and local. And as more consumers return to work and school, bolstering meal options in-store is a “growth engine” for retailers, Ramier said. 

“It’s one of our fastest growing segments,” he said. “The average customer spends half of their food dollars in a grocery store, they spend the other half in a restaurant. So, especially now at a time of higher inflation, higher costs everywhere, there’s an opportunity to keep and to grow that business.”

But doing so requires a high level of commitment, Ramier advised: “You need product development, you need lots of store space and merchandising and you need to make sure you have great value in it.”

Bridging the digital gap

Gone are the days of solely communicating with consumers via paper flyers. Today, retailers are finding new ways to use technology to enhance the shopping experience.

“The biggest thing from a consumer perspective is that you start to engage more digitally before you come into the store,” Ramier said. “And then when you come into the store, that digital journey continues. I don’t think we’re good yet at that second part so that’s a bigger focus.”

Creating a digital connection to customers requires grocers to rethink how they use technology.  

“Retailers in general have a big opportunity to move past using data for insights and to use it to better connect and talk to their customers,” he said.

And that doesn’t just include digitally-savvy customers. 

“We’ve seen an acceleration of digital usage among the older generation,” he said, noting that for younger customers, “the expectations around immediacy around convenience just continue to grow at an exponential pace.”

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