Walmart teams up with Al Premium

Brings more international products to Scarborough supercentre

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For grocery chains, testing in-store changes is a big deal.

Analyzing consumer data can take months, sometimes years. And once a change is made, just as much research is needed to see if it was worth the effort.

With Walmart’s latest addition, customer appreciation was apparent within 30 minutes of launch.

Walmart’s Scarborough, Ont. Supercentre on Steeles Avenue is working with ethnic grocer Al Premium to offer an assortment of international baked goods, meat and seafood in its store.

After last Friday’s ribbon-cutting, a customer approached a group of Walmart employees watching a 30-person line form at the new meat department.

“This is just perfect,” he said while shaking their hands. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for this.”

The initiative is part of Walmart’s “Store of the Community” program, where merchants use Neilsen and census data to identify multicultural population clusters around stores and tailor merchandise selections to the specific needs of local communities and customers.

“We understand we need to serve the community better, and this is our first attempt at doing so,” Paul Del Duca, Walmart’s senior vice-president of fresh, said at the launch.

Al Premium products are merchandised alongside typical Walmart fare in the bakery and produce aisles. In the bakery department, for example, an end cap featuring mini coconut buns and sweet milk buns is displayed next to an end cap of Italian garlic bread.

In produce, spinach, dill and lettuce sit next to Al Premium-branded lemon balm, lime leaves and galanga root. Nearby, a produce display features more than half a dozen varieties of bok choy.

Meat and seafood departments at the Walmart have been entirely revamped to include a wider variety of ethnic choices. Seafood in particular has drastically expanded its offering of live seafood. The department is now in a separate room, a setup that’s common among ethnic grocers.

This week’s Walmart flyer showcases some of Al Premium’s branding, with deals on South American white shrimp, squid, and mutton shoulder. On Friday, black tiger shrimp proved to be a hit, with crowds of customers clambering to pick up several bags of a time.

According to Jack Li, president of Al Premium, the partnership with Walmart has been in the works for  about a year.

But the timing couldn’t be better. Last month, a Loblaw-owned T&T Supermarket down the street closed its doors, leaving behind a large ethnic customer base searching for a new destination to shop.

As of now, Walmart has not announced any plans to test the format in its other stores.

Al Premium operates a 75,000-sq.-ft. store in Scarborough (Eglinton and Warden Avenue), around the corner from another Walmart. It is owned by Oriental Foods, which operates several stores under the Oriental Food Mart banner in the Toronto area.