Food sales are humming at grocery chains Loblaw and Metro

Food prices -- especially for meat -- continue to rise strongly, data from the federal statistics agency show.
Credit/Canadian Press

Two of the country’s biggest supermarket chains continue post bigger profits despite headwinds in Alberta and other regions affected by an economic slowdown this year, as well as nagging competition from encroaching rivals like Walmart and Costco.

Loblaw Cos. Ltd., the largest retailer in Canada, said Wednesday it earned $166 million in its latest quarter, a jump of nearly 17 per cent versus how much the grocer made in same the period a year ago. Net profit at rival Metro Inc. rose 14 per cent, to $131.7 million.

Both grocers reported a jump in same-store sales, which measures the rise or fall of sales at locations open at least a year and provides a sense of the ongoing pace of purchases. Same store sales at Metro were up 3.4 per cent and 3.1 per cent at Loblaw.

Metro’s net sales for the quarter were up 4.4 per cent (to $2.83 billion) from the same three-month stretch last year. Loblaw’s revenue for the 16-week period rose 2.6 per cent (to $13.95 billion).

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Loblaw owns several grocery store banners across the country, as well as Shoppers Drug Mart, the country’s largest pharmacy chain, which Loblaw bought in 2014.

Metro has more than 800 grocery stores including the Metro, Metro Plus, Super C and Food Basics banners as well as more than 250 drugstores and pharmacies including Brunet, Clini Plus, Pharmacy and Drug Basics.

“While the grocery industry remained intensely competitive … we maintained a stable trading platform, achieved incremental efficiencies and delivered planned synergies,” Loblaw president and executive chairman Galen Weston said.

Experts say Canadian grocery stores are benefiting from the round of consolidation that occurred last year, which they suggest has helped create a relatively tame market with less promotional pricing.

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“Having reached our deleveraging target [following the Shoppers deal] during the quarter, we are now in a position to accelerate our focus on returning capital to shareholders,” Weston said.

— with files from Global News