Advertisement begins offering online grocery pickup orders for 11 Ottawa-area stores

Walmart's U.S. stores struggled in the latest three-month stretch.
Walmart file photo. Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

TORONTO – Walmart will offer grocery pickup for the first time in Canada starting next week at locations in the Ottawa area, and it says it’s prepared to roll out the service to other cities if demand warrants.

The $3 service will allow people to place orders through Walmart Canada’s website. The orders must be a minimum $50 and made at least the previous day.

Simon Rodrigue, Walmart Canada’s senior vice-president for electronic commerce, said the company has been working on the service for more than a year and decided to launch it in Ottawa because the city has been a strong market for e-commerce.

READ MORE: Walmart Canada struggles to attract shoppers as Target bolts for exit

“The other thing is Ottawa gives us a great cross-section of Canada,” Rodrigue said in a phone interview Friday from Ottawa. “We see a strong education segment with two universities, a high-tech sector and demographically, there’s a lot of young families here.”

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The service will begin at six Ottawa stores on Tuesday, followed by another five on July 21. It will be available for grocery items including frozen foods, produce, meat and fish, dry goods, personal care and household cleaning products. But it won’t apply to over-the-counter or prescription drugs or for non-grocery items such as clothing.

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Customers will park at a selected Walmart location at an agreed-on time and orders, which can be made as far in advance as 21 days, will be loaded within five minutes, the company says.

Walmart, with nearly 400 stores across Canada, has been offering a pickup service for non-perishable goods at about 55 locations, mostly in the Toronto area. But the two services are being kept separate.

Loblaw launched a similar service last year at three locations in the Toronto area. It added an Ottawa location last month and plans to launch another four in the area this summer.

READ MORE: Is Loblaw finally ready to sell groceries online?

“We believe they’re fairly connected and tech savvy in the Ottawa space,” said Loblaw senior vice-president Jeremy Pee.

“We’ve been getting a lot of requests from the Ottawa area in terms of customers sending us emails and calling our call centres. So we know there’s demand out there.”

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One of the surprises for Loblaw, Pee said, has been the demand for fresh products such as produce, deli, cheese and meat.

“I think we’ve done a really good job on training our (food pickers) as well as educating our customers and making the assortment available.”

Rodrigue says Walmart Canada is drawing on expertise at its U.K. subsidiary Asda Stores and trained employees “how to pick that perfect avocado, the type of meat you’d look for” and will give customers final approval of the food they pick up.

“So we know that, based on experience globally, we’ll be able to deliver on that customer expectation every time.”

In some ways, both Walmart and Loblaw are lagging a relatively small regional competitor – the family-owned Longo’s chain in the Toronto area, which acquired the delivery service in 2004.

Although Longo’s doesn’t have a pickup service at its stores, Grocery Gateway has a staff that hand-picks a range of grocery products that are delivered by its own fleet of 50 trucks. It also delivers beer, wine and spirits under agreements with the Beer Store and Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

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