It’s no secret the Canadian retail landscape is changing.
But in which direction, and with what results?
Consumers loyal to “Canadian” brands like to talk about the “invasion” of American retailers, but as Ian Gragtmans pointed out at Transportation Media’s recent Surface Transportation Summit, retailing in Canada has evolved with more of an “international” effect.
Gragtmans, executive vice president of brokerage house Colliers International, which services clients in the 3PL and consumer packaged goods sectors, presented findings from a white paper he co-authored with Colliers vice president Kate Hay, called ‘Distance Over Time: The interplay between logistics and real estate that has characterized retailing in Canada. A history and a glimpse at what the future holds.’
Canada, it would seem, still likes its oligopolies, and the country is a challenge logistically with its urban centres dispersed over a large geographic area.
There is a lot of discussion now around the future of retail in Canada. What will retailers determine is the right channel for offering their goods, and how will they get the goods there? the paper asks.
Today’s “blurring of retail formats” sees a mix of big box to small box, in store and online retailing, Gragtmans says.
Omnichannel or dual channel retailing is gaining a lot of ground, but with increased e-commerce activity come the related challenges.
As Gragtmans points out, some of the questions emerging from this are:
1. Are goods to be offered in store or on-line? Or both.
a. If goods are to be offered in a physical retail store, what form should that store take? Small and urban supported by larger distribution centres? A showroom more than anything else?
b. If goods are offered online how will they get to the customer? Should they come to the closest store to pick them up?
If on-line and customers can order anywhere in the country where do we have to store our goods in order to ship efficiently? How are we delivering to the consumer?
On a personal note, I am thrilled about the rise in online retailing and have quickly amassed a list of preferred retailers. Preferred because they have a solid checkout, distribution and returns strategy, and they take away the need to deal with what can often be a dissatisfying and frustrating in-store retail experience.
Unfortunately, as the person largely responsible for restocking the over six bags of milk consumed in the house each week, I do have to pop into a food retailer at least twice a week.
I say that retail makes the supply chain look bad because considering the too-numerous occasions when I have gone into a store for their “everyday” “guaranteed price-competitive” items, these have been either “not in stock”, “dropped off the skid” (this actually happened two weeks in a row at one famous big box store), or left in a cart well away from a refrigerated area, because there is not enough staff to stock it.
I know many of these retailers have great supply chain strategies that place them at the top of their game in terms of getting stuff into and across the country.
So the blame has to come down on what is happening at the local retail level.
I once walked around a store three times waiting for a skid of fresh lettuce to be unpacked while the staff responsible for it talked about their outing the previous night.
When I asked them to unwrap the boxes, they told me to take the ones off the shelf (expired, and yet still there).
On another occasion I was treated to the checkout staff at a big box grocer holding her cellphone to her ear and whispering expletives into it because she had not yet been granted her break.
When you’re shopping online, at checkout you’re still not likely to encounter a sign in block letters advising staff to “check customer carts against shrinkage.”
So I say all hail online shopping. I’m not yet prepared to pay “organic” prices for milk to get dropped at my house but I would consider paying a premium to avoid the inconvenience of dealing with disorganization, surly staff and false advertising at the store level.
Julia Kuzeljevich is Editor of Canadian Shipper. She has been writing about transportation and logistics issues since 1999. All posts by Julia Kuzeljevich