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Marche Adonis to open in Ontario next year: Metro

Marche Adonis, the Mediterranean-themed grocery chain in Montreal owned by Metro Inc., will open in Ontario as early as next year.

“We will hopefully bring Adonis to Toronto in 2013,” Metro’s president, Eric La Fleche, said during a retail analysts’ conference hosted by Scotia Bank.

Those plans appear well underway, in fact. On Adonis’s home page this week, a staff recruitment ad stated that the first Adonis store will be “opening soon” in Mississauga, Ont., a Toronto suburb.

Adonis operates five stores in Montreal plus a food distributor. Metro purchased a majority stake last fall.

La Fleche has said several times since then that Adonis’s focus on fresh food, HMR and customer service offers enormous potential and that Metro would add more stores in Montreal and leapfrog the banner into Ontario as well.

At the ScotiaBank conference, La Fleche said that a good portion of new store square footage Metro intends to add would come by opening Adonis stores.

“It’s a very promising format for us,” he said.

With slow population growth, some analysts have said that grocery retailers are adding too much new floor space in Canada. Conventional grocery formats in particular are having trouble competing against discount banners, they’ve pointed out.

La Fleche, however, thinks there is more room for a good conventional store. He pointed to Longo’s, the independent chain in Toronto that recently opened its 25th store, as an example of a retailer finding new places to open. “He’s a good operator,” La Fleche said.

Adonis was founded in Montreal in 1979 by two recently immigrated brothers, Elie and Jamil Cheaib, and George Ghrayeb.

Though it is now majority-owned by Metro, Adonis continues to be run by its long-standing management team.

Since the takeover, Metro has benefited from Adonis’s expertise in certain operational areas and Adonis has taken advantage of Metro’s wide customer reach.

Adonis’s distribution division, Phoenica Products, now supplies products to Metro stores. Meanwhile, Adonis’s knowledge in fresh has come in handy as Metro tries to improve quality and presentation of fruits and vegetables at stores.

La Fleche said that some fixtures now used in Metro bannered stores came from Adonis.

Metro decided to upgrade its produce departments two years ago as part of its strategy to “win with fresh,” as La Fleche puts it.

The upgrade–at Metro bannered stores in Ontario and Quebec as well as discount Super C stores in Quebec and Food Basics in Ontario–is more than halfway done and should wrap up by the end of 2013, he reported.

Renovated produce departments feature lower tables to emphasize a market feel, more organic products and greater variety of fruits and vegetables.

Customer satisfaction and tonnage sales are up as a result, La Fleche said, though he did not provide numbers.

On the economy, La Fleche said high unemployment and low consumer confidence continue to make supermarket retailing difficult.

Products sold on promotion are up, “and have been for quite some time.” Meanwhile, he described, price inflation as next to zero.

It remains to be seen when higher commodity food prices caused by this summer’s drought in the U.S. will make their way into stores. “We could see some inflation in the back half of 2013 but how much no one really knows,” La Fleche said.

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