Facing leaner times, Alberta’s grocery shoppers ‘trade down’

WATCH: Gary Bobrovitz looks at how falling oil prices are having an impact at the grocery store cash register.

Leaner times for Alberta’s workforce are spreading throughout the province’s food chain, with local supermarkets beginning to feel the pinch.

That’s the opinion of experts, who said this week they expect the owners of Safeway Canada and Sobeys to reveal that shoppers are slashing food budgets as incomes feel the hit from lower crude prices.

Retail experts at financial services firm Raymond James suggest “more consumers are trading down” in Alberta when it comes to grocery shopping, and that stores like Safeway and Sobeys are losing customers to discount banners.

Empire Co. Ltd., which operates Sobeys and Safeway locations across the country, reports their latest sales results Thursday.

“We believe that traffic headwinds largely in Alberta could prove challenging,” the Raymond James analysts said in a research note.

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The outlook comes as employment-insurance applications rise in the province, suggesting the ranks of jobless workers collecting EI is growing.

Nearly 28,000 claim applications were received in April (latest data available), or more than double the number from last August when oil prices were just beginning their sharp slide.

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