Store visits down, online shopping up in Western Canada: Study

Western Canadians also maintain their fierce loyalty to the Real Canadian Superstore
Shutterstock/Thana Thanadechaku

Shoppers in Western Canada made fewer weekly trips to grocery stores in June and July than they did during the first two months of the year, while online grocery shopping increased, according to new research from Field Agent Canada.

The findings are based on an online survey of 500 shoppers in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba conducted using Field Agent’s mobile app.

The average number of weekly grocery trips across the entire region fell from 2.68 pre-COVID to 1.83 during June and July, while drug store trips fell from an average of 0.98 per week to 0.65 and dollar store trips fell from 1.07 to 0.7.

The study found the percentage of Western Canadian shoppers using online grocery at least once a month rose from 23% in January/February to 29% in June/July, with the average number of orders per month rising from 2.49 to 2.92.

Jeff Doucette, general manager of Field Agent Canada, called the pandemic an “a-ha moment” for people who might previously have been skeptical about online shopping. “What the crisis did is take away some of the mental barriers to online shopping: ‘It’s going to be hard,’ ‘I’m not going to get good stuff,’” he said. “It was ‘I really don’t want to go outside, and this is an option I can pull the trigger on.’”

Doucette said consumer feedback suggested the majority of online shopping was based around click-and-collect, since delivery slots weren’t readily available. “People are still headed toward the store, they’re just picking up their stuff in the parking lot,” said Doucette.

Western Canadian shoppers also maintained their loyalty to the Real Canadian Superstore, which ranked ahead of both Costco and Walmart among shoppers in all four provinces for prices (cited by 38% of respondents), assortment (47%) and overall experience, and finished second to Costco in service (23% versus 21%).

Real Canadian Superstore, Walmart and Costco accounted for nearly three-quarters (72%) of the total vote among people asked to identify their most important supermarket, with the Real Canadian Superstore earning 31% of the vote, followed by Costco at 24% and Walmart at 17%. Doucette attributed Real Canadian Superstore’s strong showing to its Western Canadian heritage.

Costco did narrowly outperform Real Canadian Superstore in Manitoba in terms of both overall experience (31% versus 29%) and service (27% versus 22%, but trailed far behind the Loblaw Companies Limited banner in both assortment (cited by just 10% of respondents, versus 61% for Real Canadian Superstore) and prices (cited by just 16% versus 55% for Real Canadian Superstore).

According to Field Agent, Costco accounts for one-quarter of the total Western Canada grocery spend. Forty-six per cent of respondents said their spend at Costco remained the same as last year, while 29% of respondents said they spent more and 25% said they spent less.


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