When it comes to grocery prices, Prince Albert shoppers have an advantage over those shopping anywhere else in Saskatchewan.
“We do price surveys on food within Saskatchewan and this is the cheapest place to purchase groceries in Saskatchewan,” Prince Albert Co-op general manager Dave Marchant said of the city.
Price-checks are done within the city on a constant basis -- a process that extends throughout Saskatchewan every two months and throughout Western Canada on a bi-yearly basis.
“We price against our like competitors, which, of course, are Safeway and Sobeys, and we’re making adjustments weekly,” Marchant said.
Prince Albert has too many grocery stores for its size, even when factoring in the large catchment of shoppers that come to the city from elsewhere, solidifying its gateway to the north status.
“We’re over-stored, so it’s very competitive,” he concluded.
Real Canadian Superstore employs a similar price survey on a weekly basis, the company wrote in an email response to the Daily Herald, checking their major competitors’ flyers on a weekly basis.
“Show us a lower advertised price on an identical item and we'll match it,” they wrote -- a statement with several stipulations, including the requirement for the price to be included in a print advertisement.
At Harold’s Family Foods, Prince Albert’s locally owned and operated grocery store, they’ve taken a unique approach to staying competitive, “by offering unique and local products, specialized services, excellent customer service and quick and fast checkout with no lineups,” manager Christopher Szeszorak said.
“Something as simple as packing customers groceries and taking them out to their car can be an edge over competition.”
Noting the expansion of Prince Albert’s Walmart into a supercentre and taking on more groceries as a result, Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Merle Lacert is keeping his eye on the situation.
“I think that both P.A. businesses and consumers are probably looking at it with two points -- one is uncertainty around possible impacts to other business, and (the other is) possible excitement as to new opportunities,” he said.
We do price surveys on food within Saskatchewan and this is the cheapest place to purchase groceries in Saskatchewan. - Prince Albert Co-op general manager Dave Marchant
“I would hope that there’s market share for all.”
Although some people may enjoy the “one stop shop” experience of a Walmart, Lacert expects that some people will continue shopping at the same grocery stores they always have, for the unique specialty products they’ve come to expect.
A point of pride at Harold’s Family Foods that Szeszorak is confident will keep people coming back, in addition to their service, is with their meat department.
“We special cut anything to order, so if you and steaks an inch-and-a-half, we can do that,” he said. “We have cutters on site that can do anything that you want. It’s not a pre-packaged product.”
Customers have come to expect meat cut fresh every day, he noted.
Prince Albert has always been a competitive market, he said, with not only traditional grocery stores selling groceries, but increasingly places like the Shoppers Drug Mart and Canadian Tire, which is selling more household products.
“We had five independent retailers in the ’60s and ’70s, so we’ve had our fair share of competition over the years, it’s just different names,” he said.
Looking forward, Szeszorak said that he expects competition to be “fierce.”
“Especially since some meat costs and freight and transportation fees are increasing in 2013. Retailers struggle to be the first to raise a flyer sale price, so initial cost increases are a direct loss to the store.”
The city’s expanding from a retail perspective, Lacert said, with Walmart’s expansion signalling no sign of things slowing down.
“The community is continuing to push and vie for continued increase in commerce, generally, meaning more visitors to the city, more shoppers to the city, which will increase demand for all businesses, all grocers.”