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How Grocers are Navigating the Crisis & Preparing for the Future

How grocery leaders are coping today and preparing for the future beyond the pandemic


Canadian grocery stores and supermarkets are having to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic at an unprecedented scale and speed.


How are Canadian grocers coping?


According to experts at Retail Council of Canada, while grocery sales have boomed in the past few weeks, Canadian independent and chain grocers had to adjust their business models quickly in the following ways:

  • Improve collaboration and communication with manufacturers across the country to meet supply and demand challenges for grocery staples (97% of Retail Council of Canada’s members are experiencing issues with staple supplies like flour for example)

  • Adjust and implement more stringent sanitation processes to ensure compliance with new public health guidelines

  • Provide plexiglass guards for cashiers in addition to implementing social distancing and one way traffic signage

  • Ensure staff is provided PPE and even do temperature checks whenever possible

  • Grocers had to pivot to improve and enhance online shopping infrastructure to keep up with the surge in online grocery shopping

  • Encouraged customers to pay by contactless cards leveraging the recently introduced Mastercard and Visa contactless credit limit increase to $250 CAD from $100 CAD



How Canadian grocers can prepare for long term changes?


An investigation conducted by Nielsen identified “six key consumer behavior threshold levels that tie directly to concerns around the COVID-19 outbreak.” According to research by Nielsen, as government regulations get stricter and the spread of the virus widens, it can speed up consumer behavior through the levels or even skip the thresholds outlined below.





Consumer retail buying behaviors were changing before COVID-19 hit. The recent pandemic has fast tracked the re-transformation of buying behaviors.


How can grocery leaders future proof their business?


Harness technology to enable higher customer experience


With online grocery sales moving from 1% to 700%, experts believe the recent consumer grocery buying behaviors will not be changing anytime soon. The buying behavior will continue with the rise in demand for online shopping and curbside pick up coupled with more discretionary purchase patterns once the nation recovers from the pandemic.


Grocers will need to adapt technology meant to enable efficiency and speed such as establishing stronger e-commerce fulfillment capabilities. Grocery leaders will need to harness technology at every stage of the value chain: rethink your online product offering and assortment using advanced e-commerce analytics tools (similar to Amazon’s recommendation engine). Automation doesn’t stop with the consumer facing side of the business, you can improve store uptime by automating warehouse and equipment operations using solutions such as repair and maintenance software. Back-office process automation and digitization such as payroll management can significantly improve output and efficiency.


Rethink customer experience and loyalty


Prior to the pandemic, 47% of Canadians indicated they shopped in a grocery store more than once a week. Now that number has dropped to 11%. This gives rise to opportunities to re-engineer grocery merchandising processes to enable more agility and responsiveness. Grocers will need to rethink in-store retail design and product assortments to meet the new realities of today and the future.



The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted the grocer industry’s transformation. Grocery leaders are re-thinking and strengthening industry relationships with the government, supply partners and customers while re-defining customer loyalty and deployment of technology to streamline operations.


Those who are building on opportunities to develop the new retail environments today are the ones who'll have future proofed their business for success beyond the crisis.



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