The parent company of Sobeys and Safeway says sales at its stores surged 37 per cent over a four-week period as Canadians stocked their shelves during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a news release Wednesday, Empire Company Limited said it started reporting “significantly higher” sales in all formats except fuel on Feb. 28.
The Nova Scotia-based company says sales further accelerated from March 8 onward as customers began to stock up in preparation for possible stay-at-home requirements.
“Although initial demand was skewed towards shelf-stable grocery items, sales mix has returned to more usual levels, across both grocery and fresh categories,” Empire said in the release.
“However, Empire continues to see heightened demand for canned goods, baking supplies and cleaning and sanitization products.”
Empire added that it is ensuring costs to consumers are held in check and that prices continue to be competitive.
“Empire will continue to be vigilant in its attempts to avoid passing on cost increases to customers,” the release said.
The company noted that its fuel sales have decreased by about 40 per cent since March 1 as a result of stay-at-home orders and a sharp decline in fuel prices.
On March 22, Sobeys announced pay increases for front-line workers in stores and distribution centres in an effort to adapt to the increased demand on its stores.
Workers with 20 hours or more a week are now getting an extra $2 an hour. At the time, the company said the increases were retroactive to March 8 and would be reassessed in late April.
A temporary estimated increase of about 15 per cent was also granted to Loblaws employees last month.
Grocery stores have been installing plexiglass shields at checkout counters in order to ensure the safety of workers. Sobeys and Loblaws are dedicating the first hour of their operating day for seniors to protect the most vulnerable.
Empire notes that customer capacity limits and one-way aisles have been created to ensure the safety of customers.
— With files from Global News’ Maryam Shah