Before Covid-19 many of us enjoyed grocery shopping often making multiple trips a week to get fresh ingredients for a special meal. Today, what was a simple chore has become a stressful challenge as many Canadians feel like they are preparing themselves for a battle wearing a mask, hand sanitizing, lining up to enter the store, following store aisle signage and keeping six feet away from other shoppers.
Supermarkets have had to work hard to navigate Covid-19 and plan for the future. From dealing with panic buying, empty shelves and customer complaints to the present foot traffic restrictions, taped markings on floors, dedicated hours for vulnerable shoppers to one way shopping aisles and plexiglas screens separating cashiers from customers.
Not only shoppers are nervous, store employees who have been designated front line workers have been at a heightened risk since the pandemic started. Safety measures for them only arrived gradually and well after community transmission was underway. As a way of recognizing the risk that their employees were working under, four of Canada's main grocery chains increased their hourly wages. In addition the federal government announced it would allocate $3 billion to top up the wages of frontline workers and another billion came from the provinces. However it is unclear how much will go to grocery workers and how long it will be for.
The biggest change in the grocery market is that people have changed to buying on-line. Many of us will remember at the start of the pandemic trying to order a food delivery and finding that all delivery slots were filled for an endless number of weeks. Before the pandemic only 4% of Canadians shopped for groceries on-line this has now jumped to 22% and grocery subscription and meal kit services are also booming.
Grocery stores have had to adapt rapidly on multiple fronts, expanding on-line shopping infrastructure, monitoring inventory more closely, and increasing health and safety measures for shoppers and employees. They are also having to fend of competition from new players in the direct to consumer market from restaurants, food delivery services, farmers markets and individual markets. Grocery store business could be forever changed by the change in customer preferences which may grow stronger rather than decline during and when the pandemic is over.
From an article by Rebecca Tucker