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Breaking down the hundreds of millions Canada’s Big Three grocers are spending on innovation

A Loblaws grocery store in Toronto in April 2019. Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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VANCOUVER — Even before the COVID-19 pandemic changed Canadians’ shopping habits, the country’s Big Three grocers were racing to innovate, spending hundreds of millions on technology and store and warehouse revamps.  

Talking Point

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic changed Canadians’ shopping habits, the country’s Big Three grocers were racing to innovate, spending hundreds of millions on technology and store and warehouse revamps. Loblaw, Empire and Metro were able to adapt quickly to shoppers’ changing demands in part because they already had ambitious projects underway backed by substantial capital expenditures.

Loblaw, Empire and Metro all benefited from a shopping frenzy in the pandemic’s early days, and then sustained sales growth as Canadians ate at home more often. They were able to adapt quickly to shoppers’ changing demands in a new world of physical distancing and lockdowns—a rush to e-commerce, more delivery—in part because the three already had ambitious projects underway backed by substantial capital expenditures. While each firm continues to spend on capital as planned, their most recent quarters saw capital expenditures that outpaced last year’s. Here’s how they’re spending on innovation.

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