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Loblaw unveils new banner Provigo Le Marché

Seven stores in Quebec will operate under the banner that will offer the experience of a public market

Quebec supermarket chain Provigo, a unit of Loblaw Cos. Ltd., is introducing a new supermarket concept built around an enhanced assortment of fresh products, faster checkout service and a broader selection of Quebec and regional products.

Pierry Dandoy, senior vice-president of operations for Provigo and Loblaws Quebec, introduced the new-look stores in a speech before the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal on Tuesday.

Six existing Loblaw stores in the province, as well as a new store being constructed in Sherbrooke, will operate under the new banner Provigo Le Marché. They are intended to combine the shopping experience and freshness of the public market with the convenience, personalized service and variety of a traditional supermarket, said Dandoy.

“The new Provigo Le Marché stores will provide a unique experience in Quebec that will meet the taste and expectations of consumers who are passionate about great food,” he said.

The new concept will be formally unveiled at two stores in Montreal and Sherbrooke next month, with the initial launch phase expected to be complete by year’s end. The revamped stores will offer in-store aged beef, bagels baked on-site, a juice bar and various cheeses.

Ken Wong, a marketing professor at Queen’s University, likens it to a similar 2012 initiative undertaken by Vancouver’s H.Y. Louie – which owns London Drugs and IGA in B.C. – which opened its Fresh St. Market in a former Safeway store late last year. Fresh St. specializes in local, organic and sustainable foods.

READ: West Van's new Fresh St. Market puts focus on unique

Wong said the launch of Provigo Le Marché is another example of a grocery retailer looking to differentiate itself in a highly competitive segment.

“It’s becoming very congested in the grocery business these days – not only do you have all the existing players, but you also have the new entrants as the retail boundaries have gotten blurred,” said Wong. “It seems like everybody and their brother is now selling groceries: You’ve got Target, Canadian Tire, Walmart even Shoppers Drug Mart. Everybody’s looking for that sweet spot.”

READ: Loblaw to spend $100 million on Provigo and other stores in Quebec

Wong called Provigo Le Marché an example of the “Think global, act local” mantra played out on a different stage. The gamble for Loblaw, he said, is whether Quebec’s millennial consumers will place the same emphasis on fresh and organic food as their parents did.

“Trying to simulate the long-standing buying habits of Quebecois for community markets makes sense, but the generation of shoppers may not relate to the traditional community market,” he said.

Wong also pointed out that the types of services being offered by Provigo Le Marché are expensive to create, which could lead to the full version of the new concept being limited to one or two banner stores, with the other stores featuring pared back versions. “I would be very surprised if they went full format with all seven,” said Wong.

Loblaw also announced new promotional and merchandising strategies for its existing 77-store network. The stores will gradually adopt a new brand image to be reviewed as part of the Provigo Le Marché rollout, said Dandoy.

Dandoy’s presentation follows an April announcement by Provigo in which it pledged “major investments” to its Quebec store network that would total approximately $100 million this year. Dandoy said at the time that the revamp is the result of travel to several continents in order to identify best practices.

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