Store of the month: Montreal’s Provigo Le Marché L’Avenue

Business is brisk, proving bigger isn’t always better at the grocery store

One of the first things shoppers see when taking the escalator up to the entrance of Provigo Le Marché L’Avenue is a framed Habs jersey with the number 17 and “Provigo” on the back. It’s no wonder: not only is the new store just across from the Bell Centre, the downtown Montreal home of the Montreal Canadiens, but Provigo (owned by Loblaw since 1998) is one of the team’s sponsors.

The store is on the second floor of the new 350-unit L’Avenue condo tower, in a neighbourhood bursting with construction cranes and half-built condo buildings. “Everything’s under construction here,” says Provigo’s group director Sylvain Jodoin, who is responsible for both Provigo Le Marchés and corporate stores. “That means there are going to be a lot of new residents. Sales will continue to go up—that’s the opportunity.”

Soon after entering the store, shoppers are greeted by a whimsical 18-by-30-foot mural that showcases the best of Montreal. You’ll find depictions of a hockey rink, Notre-Dame Basilica, the Stanley Cup and a Montreal bagel, of course. Quebec products are also featured throughout the store, including Biodélices maple syrup and Dion spices.

While the average Provigo Le Marché is 45,000 square feet, L’Avenue is condo-sized, measuring about half of that. Like all stores in the banner, however, you’ll find the same wall of cheese and displays of aged beef—just slightly smaller versions. Despite the petite footprint, Jodoin says the store has a substantial offering of 15,000 products, including more than 450 types of cheese (with 300 hailing from Quebec) and more than 20 varieties of mushrooms.

In keeping with the diminutive dimensions, the shopping carts are also smaller and shelves have one or two facings instead of the three, four or five seen in larger stores. Extra products are put on the top shelves to help employees restock quickly.

Jodoin says organic foods and in-store prepared meals are great sellers at the downtown location. A variety of prepared meals, or concocté par nos chefs, sell for $7.99 and the salad bar, including higher-end items like quinoa and tabouleh, is becoming more popular every day.

Since the store opened in April, Jodoin says business at Provigo has improved every week and sales have surpassed targets. On average, customers may purchase less per visit but there are more transactions from clientele composed of downtown workers, residents, students and tourists. “At lunchtime, it’s full,” he says.

To add to that, the Bell Centre is the second busiest arena in North America. Many of the people who attend hockey games, concerts or other arena events end up dropping by the store. Keeping the Bell Centre’s calendar of events close at hand, this Le Marché closes at midnight for its customers—the latest closing of any Provigo.

Jodoin says converting former Loblaw stores in Quebec to the Provigo Le Marché banner, including the new L’Avenue location, has resulted in better performance for Loblaw, the ability to consolidate multiple flyers into one provincial flyer and the opportunity to introduce hundreds of new products. “We’re extremely happy with the results in Quebec.”

This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Canadian Grocer.

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