While the grocery business is stagnant in Canada as a whole, grocery retailers on P.E.I. are finding ways to increase sales.
The general trend nationally is for Canadians, in their search for convenience, to be spending more on foodservice and grocery stores are for the most part suffering from that competition.
But in P.E.I., grocers managed 3.3 percent sales growth in the first 10 months of 2019, as compared to the same period the year before. A little more than half of that growth was due to increased population — P.E.I. is the fastest-growing province in the country — but growth in spending per capita was also a factor.
Spending per capita on groceries in Canada, at just over $210 a month, is up a mere 0.5 percent. The increase in P.E.I. is three times the national average, up to more than $236 per person.
Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, can think of a couple of reasons P.E.I. grocers are doing better than others.
Strong immigration numbers over the last decade have led to a more diverse population on the Island. This has brought new, and perhaps more expensive, products into grocery stores.
Another factor, said Charlebois, is the strong growth in the P.E.I. economy.
“Grocers do have the ability to assess a market’s capacity to pay for food,” he said.
“They will set prices based on what they believe the market will be able to bear. That’s basically how it works. They’re very good at pricing and that’s why you’re seeing growth in sales and retail sales, particularly in food.”
Charlebois added Canada’s Food Island initiative is also creating new products that are showing up in Island stores, and those premium products could be increasing the average price of groceries.