By Craig Patterson
Walmart Canada has announced that it will invest over $200-million in its store network this year. Included will be renovations to 31 of its stores that will create about 3,250 construction jobs, according to the company. Walmart Canada has also announced that it will be closing two stores in Ontario and Quebec.
The company says that the investment will strengthen its Canadian store network while providing a “better in-store experience”. That includes expanding the retailer’s Supercentre format to more locations. As well, Walmart Canada says that it will help create a “more seamless experience for customers ordering on Walmart.ca and picking up at their local store”.
"Our store network is a key advantage in our ability to best serve the changing needs of our customers," said Lee Tappenden, president and CEO of Walmart Canada. "1.2 million customers in Canada choose to shop in our stores every day and we are focused on making their experience easy, enjoyable and convenient while seamlessly integrating our e-Commerce business. Investing in our stores is critical for the future of our business and to deliver on the changing needs of our customers."
Store enhancements will include new dedicated parking spaces for online grocery pickup and new areas in stores devoted to online orders. A wider assortment of fresh food will be made available, including adding bakery departments and hot food offerings, as well as introducing new licensees to its stores. Walmart has partnered with Jack Nathan Health Centres as well as various restaurants, medical facilities and even fitness concepts for stores.
Stores will also see a “refreshed look and feel” that will include updated merchandising and colour palette, as well as new signage. The goal is to ‘make stores fun and engaging for the customer”, according to Walmart Canada.
The announcement follows last year’s investment of $175-million into Walmart Canada’s store network and over the past five years, the company has invested more than $1-billion in its Canadian locations.
The announced renovated stores will be in seven Canadian provinces including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland.
In British Columbia, stores in Langley and Victoria will see renovations. Alberta stores to be renovated include locations in Calgary (Westbrook), Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Lloydminster and Wetaskawin. A store in Yorktown, Saskatchewan will be renovated, as well units in Winnipeg and Thompson in Manitoba. In Ontario, 17 stores will be renovated in Bolton, Brampton (East), Brockville, Kanata, Kenora, Orillia, Ottawa (South), Pembroke, Renfrew, Richmond Hill (South), St. Catharines (Centre), St. Thomas, Timmins, Toronto (Stockyards), Trenton, Vaughan (West) and Windsor (South). In Quebec, Stores in Montreal (Decarie) as well as in Repentigny and St. Jerome will be renovated. A store in Gander, Newfoundland, will also see upgrades.
Over the past four years, Walmart Canada has opened more than 20 stores in Canada, now boasting more than 400 locations nationwide. The company has more than 85,000 associates and is one of Canada’s largest employers.
As part of the announcement, Walmart Canada says that it is closing two of its stores. One will be at 101 Boulevard Cardinal Leger in Pincourt, Quebec, and the other will be at Station Mall at 293 Bay Street in downtown Sault St. Marie, Ontario.
It’s a major blow to Station Mall, which is Northern Ontario’s second largest shopping centre that has almost 100 stores in more than 500,000 square feet of space. The mall’s 84,000 square foot Sears anchor shuttered last year after Sears Canada declared bankruptcy. The Walmart store was formerly a Zellers location.
Shoppers in Sault St. Marie are being directed to a newly renovated Walmart Supercentre at 446 Great Northern Rd in the city’s northern suburbs.
Walmart Canada is also said to be undergoing a ‘quiet restructuring’ in Canada according to sources formerly with the company, who say that the retailer is terminating some long-term staff. It’s being done a few at a time so as to not attract media attention, they said.
Value-priced competition amongst retailers in Canada continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. Costco continues to open stores and see incredible success in Canada — the company has about 100 stores in Canada, compared to less than 600 in the United states, with many Canadian Costco stores selling well in excess of $100-million annually. Chains such as Giant Tiger continue to rapidly open stores and given Walmart’s depth in merchandise, it also competes with retailers ranging from Canadian tire to Loblaw brands such as Real Canadian Superstore and even TJX banners Winners, Marshalls and HomeSense for certain fashion and other categories.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: email@example.com