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Grocers learn how to click it up

The online grocery race is competitive. Who’s pulling ahead?

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Later this year, Metro will introduce an online grocer service in Quebec. Details are vague but once up, all of Canada’s major grocery chains will sell meat, produce and tens of thousands of other groceries online. Is this the start of a cyber–grocery war?

LOBLAW
Launched: 2014
Story so far: Loblaw’s click-and-collect program began at one store north of Toronto. Now 39 Loblaws and Real Canadian Superstores in and around Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton, Kelowna, B.C., and London, Ont., have it. No home delivery yet; customers must pick up.
Service fee: $3 but up to $5 around supper
What else? Loblaw’s chief executive, Galen Weston, recently noted that click and collect “essentially loses money as they start to ramp up to a certain level of scale,” but he remains bullish, with expansion in the works to more cities in Ontario, notably Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie.
Price check: (1-L Heinz ketchup) $4.79

SOBEYS
Launched: 1998
Story so far: In Quebec, Sobeys ecommerce biz dates back to the height of the dot-com boom. Today, home delivery and pickup is available at some 250 IGA stores, with clerks doing the picking. A revamped website, launched last year, includes services that make virtual shopping seem more real. For instance, shoppers can specify ripe avocados and interact with the “Gourmet Squad,” a cast of Pixar-inspired characters who answer questions and offer meal and nutrition advice.
Service fee: $4 on all orders; $4.50 for delivery
What else? Sobeys has added pickup and delivery in B.C. through Thrifty Foods. Will we see Sobeys in other parts of the country take it up, too? It’s only a matter of time.
Price check: (1-L Heinz ketchup) $3.99 (on sale) at IGA

OVERWAITEA
Launched: 2014
Story so far: Overwaitea began selling online at three of its Save-On-Foods stores in the Vancouver area. Service has since been expanded across Metro Vancouver as well as Victoria and several other cities in British Columbia.
Service fee: $4.95 for pickup; $7.95 for delivery
What else? Grocery-list makers and recipes are standard fare on supermarket websites. But there’s one feature here we wish others would add: a “give” button that lets customers buy groceries for food banks. Customers can even choose from handy premade lists of everyday items for the needy.
Price check: (1-L Heinz ketchup) $4.49 (on sale)

LONGO’S
Launch date: 2004
Story so far: Longo’s online grocery venture started when it bought the bankrupt Grocery Gateway. Today, Grocery Gateway’s green-and-white delivery trucks are common sites on downtown Toronto streets, and the service has been expanded to the suburbs and other cities, notably Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge. Unlike every other grocer on this list, Grocery Gateway doesn’t offer pickup, just delivery. Also unique: rather than staff choosing items from a store, orders are done via a 50,000-sq.-ft. warehouse.
Service fee: $9.99
What else? Long before Ontario allowed beer in supermarkets, Grocery Gateway inked a deal with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to sell and deliver beer online. A year ago, wine and spirits were added to the menu. Cheers to that!
Price check: (1-L Heinz ketchup) $4.99

WALMART
Launched: 2015
Story so far: Walmart shoppers have been able to order diapers and canned soup for delivery via Canada Post for several years. Fresh food, however, had to wait until last summer’s click-and-collect test in Ottawa. The service was an immediate hit, company officials say, which is why, as of February, pickup was expanded to 12 Toronto-area stores.
Service fee: $3
What else? Walmart Canada’s ace in the hole may be its ability to tap into the expertise of more developed ecommerce operations at Walmart U.S. and its Asda U.K. subsidiary. Asda in particular is a click-and-collect pioneer: all 614 Asdas have it, some with 24/7 pickup. For busy commuters, Asda also offers pickup at lockers next to subway stations in London.
Price check: (1-L Heinz ketchup) $3.33

*Price check: Feb. 29

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