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Supermarkets | The year of low-cost signs



By the admission of their leaders, low-cost brands like Super C and Maxi are filling up with new customers concerned about the rising cost of food.

And to seduce these consumers accustomed to traditional grocery stores, the low-cost brands, which opened new stores in 2022 and which will continue their momentum in 2023, are trying to get rid of the “warehouse” image attached to their skin. For years.

More stores


The Super C brand is on a roll and has exceeded the milestone of 100 stores in 2022.

Super C, owned by Metro, inaugurated its 100e store in early November and recently opened its 101e in Beauharnois. For 2023, the red and yellow sign will have five new stores. If it is not a record of openings, Metro still speaks of a “good year” for its low-cost brand.

On the Maxi side, 12 new grocery stores — 11 of which were formerly Provigo — have appeared in the Quebec landscape. Loblaw, which manages the chain, intends to open as many next year. “In the past 20 years, it has never happened that we have opened so many stores,” said Patrick Blanchette, vice-president, operations, of Maxi, during a telephone interview. For the Montreal market, where large sites are becoming rarer, the brand associated with comedian Martin Matte also intends to develop smaller grocery stores of around 20,000 square feet. “Sometimes you have to adapt according to the available space. This is one of our projects in 2023: to be able to adapt a concept. »

Customer growth

“We have seen for some time that our number of transactions has increased enormously in store,” adds Mr. Blanchette. We see that the basket is increasing. My store managers tell me they’re seeing customers they didn’t see before. You can see it moving. For us, it is sure that it is profitable. »


Low-cost brands are welcoming more and more customers.

How many new customers now opt for Maxi? “Thousands of more customers we see in our stores every week,” he replies without further details.

Loblaw President Galen G. Weston recently indicated that there were more Mercedes and Range Rovers in Maxi store parking lots than before.

Although he also did not reveal figures concerning the increase in the number of consumers who pass through the doors of his stores, Jean-Guy Tremblay, senior vice-president of Super C, also acknowledges that the brand is registering ” excellent results” and has “the wind in its sails.

Currently, we are definitely benefiting from the context where consumers are concerned about the economy.

Jean-Guy Tremblay, Senior Vice-President of Super C

“With the acceleration of the transition to discount brands like Super C, all brands want to protect their market share, so they are aggressive,” the president and CEO said a few weeks ago. Metro’s Eric La Flèche during a conference with analysts to discuss the company’s fourth quarter fiscal 2022 results.


Customers are less and less loyal to a brand, notes Jordan LeBel, full professor of food marketing. They may as well go to a luxury brand one day as to a discount store the next.

Full professor of food marketing at Concordia University, Jordan LeBel notes that customers are less and less loyal to a brand. “The same customer who goes to Holt Renfrew can go to Winners the next day, he illustrates. We all want to stretch our dollar. There is a crossover between genres. »

Exit “the warehouse”

And to “retain” these newcomers who now roam their aisles, low-cost brands are trying to get rid of this “warehouse” image with which they are often associated. “Before, customers came to Maxi to buy toilet paper and cane, illustrates Mr. Blanchette. Now I see them coming to shop for their meals seven days a week. »


Maxi now has 15 stores with a deli counter, a way to improve the consumer experience.

Maxi has renovated fifteen of its stores to make them more attractive. And the branches newly built or converted to Maxi after having been operated under the colors of Provigo are also fitted out differently. This is particularly the case of the Maxi store — formerly Provigo — officially inaugurated this fall in the Parc-Extension district. The Press visited it in the company of Mr. Blanchette.

“We want to make our concept a little warmer. We changed the colors of our stores, more lighting, more space for the customer, less looks warehouse,” he describes. And now 15 stores have a deli counter where customers can have ham or other cold meats cut instead of buying pre-packaged products.


Patrick Blanchette, Vice President of Operations at Maxi

The customer who comes from conventional banners, we want to attract them with these things: the offer of natural and organic products, meats, products from Quebec, service at the deli counter, more space on the floors to circulate, less palletizing.

Patrick Blanchette, Vice President, Operations, Maxi

The Maxi grocery store located at the corner of rue Jean-Talon and avenue du Parc is also the first to have a sushi counter prepared on site. There will soon be a cafe there.

“Often, back home, we say: Super C is the best-kept secret in Quebec,” adds Jean-Guy Tremblay, with a smile in his voice. There are people who have a perception of what it was like 20, 25 years ago. At the time of Super Carnival, it was stores that were more of a warehouse. »


Discount brands want to break away from the image that they are vast warehouses and want to attract customers with fresh or organic products, in particular.

Metro became the owner of 14 Super Carnaval grocery stores in 1987. They then changed their name in 1991 to become Super C. “Beyond the discount banner, Super C is a grocery store,” he points out. . Several times during the interview, Mr. Tremblay praised the fruit and vegetable offer.

“We are the only discount banner that has butchers to cut meat in store,” he also points out.


Super C is the only discount banner that has butchers to cut meat in-store, says Jean-Guy Tremblay, senior vice-president of Super C.

Efficiency and price are undoubtedly among the main assets of Super C, according to Jean-Guy Tremblay. “When you go to Super C, there is no flafla”, he says, also recalling that the brand does not retain the services of any packer, that all branches have self-service checkouts and scales to allow customers to weigh their fruits and vegetables themselves, reducing the waiting time when it comes time to pay.


Super C relies on efficiency and price: no packers and lots of self-service checkouts.

At the grocery store and at the Stock Exchange

“The year 2022 has been a springboard for discount banners,” says Jordan LeBel. And nothing indicates that the enthusiasm for these supermarkets which present themselves as an economic solution will run out of steam, he believes.


According to food marketing professor Jordan LeBel, the grocery store acts as a barometer to measure the mood of consumers.

With inflation and economic uncertainty, the professor believes that the supermarket acts as a sort of barometer to gauge people’s moods. “I ask if the supermarket is not becoming the new Stock Exchange where we see the consumer’s mood changing in real time. »

“It’s as if consumers who hear bad news about rising prices say to themselves: ‘This week, we’re going to go to Maxi or Super C instead of going to IGA Extra or Metro Plus’. The reaction is day-to-day, like on the stock markets. »


A new Super C supermarket in Saint-Jérôme

Super C

  • Brand managed by Metro since 1987
  • Number of stores: 101
  • Number of employees: 7000
  • Senior Vice-President: Jean-Guy Tremblay


The new Maxi supermarket in the Parc-Extension district


  • Brand managed by Loblaw
  • Foundation: 1984
  • Number of stores: 127
  • Number of employees: 11,000
  • Vice President, Operations: Patrick Blanchette

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