Pick up sushi with your shampoo: Shoppers introduces fresh groceries at Vancouver location
Chong Bang Senior V.P. of merchandising shows off the fresh food, sushi and vegetable items now stocked in the Shoppers Drug Mart on East Hastings in Vancouver with an "Enhanced Convenience Food section." The in-store experience combines foods and will include approximately 750 new fresh items including T&T products. (Mark van Manen/Postmedia Network)
For some years, the aisles in a select number of Shoppers Drug Mart outlets in B.C. have offered basic grocery goods like dairy, snacks and bread alongside the usual drugstore products.
Now, at the East Vancouver location on Hastings Street near Slocan, customers can pick from a newly added selection of more than 750 fresh food items — from chicken drumsticks and aged parmesan cheese to organic apples and cups of fresh berries.
It's the first such store in B.C. for Shoppers, which has opened similar "enhanced convenience food sections" at 33 locations in the Toronto area and a few in Regina. It'll open another one later this year on Cambie Road in Richmond and another eight smaller "grab and go" versions on West and East Broadway, Main, Granville and Homer streets in Vancouver.
Shoppers has chosen these outlets because of their "density, urban location and demographics," and because they're located where there currently isn't a fresh food grocery option, said senior vice-president of merchandising Chong Bang.
It's part of a wider trend by large retail chains in North America — such as Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart — to move into urban neighbourhoods, where analysts and executives see that consumers prefer to pick up groceries in smaller stores within walking distance of where they live.
"I think that it's a good distinction to make that we are not going to be a destination shop. People will still go to the grocery store. It's more 'hey, what can I make for dinner?' and they pick up a pasta, a sauce and some protein, and mix and match," said Bang at the East Hastings store, pointing out packs of ready-made soups and mixes, alongside packs of cooked sirloin steak and turkey breast strips.
Shoppers was bought in 2014 by Brampton, Ont.-based supermarket giant Loblaws Companies Ltd., which had previously purchased Richmond-based Asian grocer T&T Supermarket in 2009. It means Shoppers can offer a wide range of produce from Loblaws' brands in its grocery locations, including President's Choice and T&T's popular Asian goods, from mini-almond cookies to pork dumplings.
So while customers shouldn't expect the vast range of services found at Walgreens' U.S. "superstore" locations, where they can be wooed with baristas, juice bars and dedicated sushi chefs, they can pick up fresh T&T sushi made daily — an option that has already been very popular, according to Bang.
Drug store chains and big-box retailers offering fresh food have generally aimed to compete with conventional rather than discount supermarkets on pricing. They also try to draw in customers with one-time specials and seasonal discounts on specific items, and Bang confirmed this will be the case at Shoppers.