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High-end grocers expand and brace for more competition in B.C.Wednesday, December 10, 2014 > 09:00:39
(Business In Vancouver)
Newcomers such as Saks Fifth Avenue are readying to compete against stalwarts such as Whole Foods Market and Urban Fare
As Canada’s high-end grocery sector expands, newcomers such as Saks Fifth Avenue are readying to compete against stalwarts such as Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq:WFM) and Urban Fare.
Whole Foods’ plan to open new stores in Burnaby and North Vancouver is an hors d’oeuvre of the growth that the Texas-based grocer foresees for Canada.
Whole Foods’ co-CEO Walter Robb told the Wall Street Journal in November that he wants to quadruple the company’s current Canadian store count. He made those comments while opening the company’s 10th Canadian store, in Ottawa.
Future Whole Foods store openings in B.C. are set for 2015 in Appia Developments’ Solo project at Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway in North Burnaby as well as in 2018 at Onni Group’s CentreView project at Lonsdale Avenue and 13th Street.
The Victoria Times Colonist has reported rumours that Whole Foods also intends to take over a former Safeway location in Victoria.
The company runs four stores in Metro Vancouver and has operated in the province since 2007, when it bought Wild Oats Markets, which had previously bought Vancouver-based Capers Community Market.
Regardless of where in Canada Whole Foods expands, however, it is almost certain to have more competition.
Overwaitea Food Group’s high-end Urban Fare brand has expanded to five B.C. locations and is getting ready to open a store in Calgary.
Global high-end food purveyors are expected to open soon Vancouver locations, retail analyst and Retail Insider Media Ltd. owner Craig Patterson told Business in Vancouver.
When Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC) bought Saks Fifth Avenue for US$2.4 billion in 2013, HBC said that it planned to open a Saks in Vancouver, although it did not specify where. The company then revealed in an October news release that Toronto-based upscale grocer Pusateri’s Fine Foods will “be the operating partner for the Saks food halls in Canada.”
“There’s another high-end grocer that is likely to come to Vancouver too – Eataly,” Patterson said.
Eataly tiptoed into North America by launching stores in New York in 2010 and Chicago in 2013. Patterson expects the brand to have at least five U.S. locations within the next few years.
The upscale Italian grocer inked a deal in October to open in the posh Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London, England. Canadian Galen Weston owns the U.K.-based Selfridges chain, which in turn owns high-end Canadian clothier Holt Renfrew, which will compete with Saks.
Patterson believes Holt Renfrew will help bring the Eataly brand to Canada either to be part of Holt Renfrew’s stores or to be stand-alone entities.
“Eataly is like a grocery store with a bunch of restaurants and cool vendors inside,” Patterson said. “You buy your pasta at a pasta bar. There’s an oyster bar and an olive oil boutique. The concept does well wherever it goes.”
Holt Renfrew’s divisional vice-president of public relations, Moira Wright, would neither confirm nor deny the possibility of her company opening a high-end grocery store.