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Loblaws: officially selling everything
Milk, eggs . . . cellphones
Loblaw launches PC mobile service
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 Updated at 3:50 AM EDT
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

First it had grocery stores, then it added a bank, now it also has a wireless service.

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. has become the latest retailer in Canada to launch its own branded cellphone service in an effort to tap a fast-growing market. Industry observers expect more chains will follow, a trend they say could lead to lower wireless rates over time as competition heightens.

"It enables them to lever the fact that they've got a huge percentage of Canadians that visit one of their stores during the course of a year," said retail consultant Len Kubas of Kubas Consultants.

"The idea of having a phone that you can use and buy from a supermarket that you visit every week makes a lot of sense," he added.

With the new service, Loblaw is expanding its popular President's Choice private label line. Customers can currently buy food products like PC Memories of Tuscany Balsamic Vinegar & Fig Sauce, open a PC Financial bank account, and now sign up for PC mobile service at its supermarkets, and the company has said there is more PC merchandise to come.

The first stop for PC mobile was Alberta. British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec are expected to follow in coming weeks. Loblaw officials were not available to comment.

While many retail outlets have sold major wireless carriers' phones and prepaid offers for years, they are only starting to branch out now with their own branded cellphone services. Sears Canada Inc., for example, offers wireless service through SearsConnect. 7-Eleven Inc. last year introduced its Speak Out Wireless service in the United States, which could be expanded to Canada this fall. And in Britain, supermarket chains Tesco PLC and J. Sainsbury PLC 's sell their own branded cellphone services.

Loblaw "has strong ties to the U.K. supermarket industry," Mr. Kubas said. "Once they saw the success of store branded mobile phones, they thought why not?"

Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. and Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. are among the next likely candidates to launch branded wireless services as many Canadians shop at their stores, according to Mr. Kubas. Both firms were not immediately available for comment.

Retailers are hoping to attract consumers who have so far resisted signing up for cellphone service. In North America, a smaller percentage of the population subscribes to wireless services than in Western Europe and Asia.

The retail chains are entering the cellphone market through deals that let them use the networks of the top wireless carriers. PC mobile is using Bell Mobility Inc.'s network, according to its website.

Resellers including PC mobile will likely target the discount market, said telecom consultant Ian Angus of Angus TeleManagement Group.

Loblaw is marketing its prepaid cellphone service as an "affordable" alternative to existing offers. PC mobile charges 20 cents a minute for local calls, according to the website. In comparison, Bell Mobility charges 30 cents a minute for the first two minutes and then 5 cents a minute for the rest of the call. And Rogers Wireless Inc. charges 26 cents to 33 cents a minute with its Anytime Plan, while Telus Mobility's rates go from 25 cents a minute up to 40 cents.
speaking of RCSS..

the new store at weston near 401looks almost done. they have been working like crazy, they finished paving the exterior parking lot yesterday even though the temperature was well below zero. they even painted the lines. trees are planted, concrete curbs are in etc. i have never seen anyone do that much asphalt in those conditions. it's like they're trying to open before christmas.

they seem to be in some big hurry to finish. the store is all walled up and just some minor finishing touches need to be made on the cladding. this store is massive. i have also heard that there will be other businesses located in this complex like a gym and doctors offices, etc.

there looks to be 3 indorr parking entrances to the building, from the west, north and south. they will be installing a new 4 way traffic light system to the western entrance off of weston road at cardell ave. you can drive right into the building which i think is a great idea because maybe in the future they can freely develop the parking lot they just built without the aspect of losing the lot as a hinderance to development.

more on the traffic light installation....

i think it's great that they put this 4-way in. it will slow down traffic a bit. weston north of oak feels too fast.

here's the site location...

it's between weston rd & knob hill dr. and knob hill d.r & oak st.

here's some pics from 1-2 months ago...







Couture by Loblaw
Grocer Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is poised to launch a low-priced private-label apparel line next month as it races to shore up its product selections and compete against powerful discounter Wal-Mart Canada Corp.

The line is being referred to as Joe Fresh -- Joe after fashion guru Joseph Mimran, who developed the men's and women's wear for Loblaw, and Fresh, referring to styles that are refreshed often and therefore never become outdated. Mr. Mimran is also the architect of the retailer's private-label general merchandise offerings under its familiar President's Choice label.

The apparel rollout is important for the country's largest supermarket chain as it grapples with disappointing financial results and snags in introducing non-grocery items. At the same time, Loblaw is feeling the heat from Mississauga-based Wal-Mart Canada, which is preparing to introduce more food and apparel at larger supercentres in Canada late this year or early next year.

It is a timely strategy for Toronto-based Loblaw, said retail consultant David Howell, president of Associate Marketing International. "It's important that Loblaw do it now. . . . It's a fast race between Wal-Mart and Loblaw."

Loblaw has been racing to build more superstores, expand product selections and cut costs in a bid to take on Wal-Mart. But the grocer's transformation has been bumpy, and Loblaw doesn't expect a turnaround until later this year.

The problems were particularly acute in the non-grocery aisles, as new home products were added to the mix but couldn't make it to store shelves on time because of distribution breakdowns, resulting in missed sales and lower profits.

Now Loblaw is gearing up for its next major launch -- apparel -- as it attempts to emulate popular U.S. discounter Target Corp., industry observers said. Minneapolis-based Target has become a destination retailer for cheap fashions, and is one of the few merchants successful in competing with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart, for its part, has beefed up its clothing offerings, partly by adding trendier fashions under the George label. It is aimed at capturing a higher-income, style-conscious shopper, the same one that Loblaw is chasing.

Loblaw is putting finishing touches to its private-label apparel line, which some industry insiders say is being named Joe after its designer, Mr. Mimran, just as George was named after George Davies.

Mr. Mimran does private-label work for Loblaw and Toronto-based Holt Renfrew & Co. Ltd., both headed by billionaire Galen Weston. Mr. Mimran, who declined to comment, is founder of the hip fashion chain Club Monaco.

Loblaw is redesigning some of its superstores to accommodate an expanded apparel section, with fitting rooms and separate cashiers.

Loblaw spokesman Geoffrey Wilson wouldn't comment on the apparel plans, but suggested March 13 should be set aside, and an invitation would be forthcoming. "There are many new and exciting things coming down the pipe."

Wal-Mart spokesman Andrew Pelletier said its George line is performing well in Canada, and will be expanded. "We'll be raising the bar when it comes to apparel because that's what the customer expects."
POSTED AT 6:00 PM EST ON 25/02/06
Loblaw's chain reaction
With files from reporter Andy Hoffman
Loblaws knew it had to get into the 21st century in a hurry.

It had Wal-Mart on one flank, and price-conscious consumers on the other. And as it looked for ways to beat one, and serve the other, it realized that one of its big impediments was right at the core of its business: It was taking too long to get goods from the warehouses to the store shelves.

And so last year Canada's biggest grocer embarked on a $62-million effort (with more to come) to revolutionize its distribution system. It launched an ambitious -- and ultimately costly -- plan to trim its 32 warehouses by six. It wanted to consolidate operations in large, high-volume facilities run on state-of-the-art technology. Ordering systems were to be streamlined so that shelves would be full of the goods the company marketed so famously in its Insider Report flyers.

But things went awry. Loblaw moved too fast. It laid off people, relocated others, and closed facilities before other locations were able to take up the additional load. Last summer, the Calgary warehouse got so jammed that one supplier waited three or four months just for his shipment to be received.

How did one of Canada's savviest supermarket chains find itself in this predicament? Why couldn't a leader in developing designer groceries also produce President's Choice pots and pillows and get it right?

For president John Lederer, a man who is usually in total control of a situation, it wasn't his finest hour. He tried to do too much, too quickly, and is now eating humble pie. His missteps set the grocer back at least a year, and tens of millions of dollars.

"We've had a very challenging year," he told analysts recently. "It has to be said that probably we -- I -- went a little bit too fast. And, obviously, you learn from that. And we are far better prepared now to cope with the final stages of setting this business absolutely right, than we were certainly a year ago."

While he says the company is well on its way to getting its house in order by the summer, others think it may take longer. And time is of the essence because as Loblaw Cos. Ltd. works to sharpen its operations, discounter Wal-Mart Canada Corp. isn't wasting a second. The giant general merchandiser within a year plans to roll out supercentres with a full array of supermarket and non-supermarket goods.

So the grocer that mastered Memories of Szechuan peanut sauce has to figure out how to sell towels, toys and clothing, and do it quickly. Otherwise it may get overtaken in the competitive heat.

"Their task is to make people aware of their general merchandise offerings, and the scope of them, because they don't have a long record at it," says Don Watt, a retailing consultant who advises Wal-Mart.

To compete successfully against the mighty Wal-Mart machine, a merchant has to have a well-oiled system of getting in-demand products from the supplier to the store shelves. To his credit, Mr. Lederer understands that, and last year set about retooling Loblaw's systems to slash costs and gear up for his expansion into general merchandise at discount superstores.

Not one to shrink from challenges, he's a Loblaw man to the core, having served the company for 29 years. At 50, he's been at the helm since 2001, from success to success.

But in trying to take on the 800-pound gorilla Wal-Mart, the low-profile executive met his match. As he raced to streamline Loblaw's distribution and administrative network to lower costs -- all so that he could lower prices -- the process snowballed into a series of stumbles that he didn't anticipate.

His goal was to consolidate 32 warehouses across Canada by closing six and cutting 1,400 jobs. But the remaining distribution centres just weren't ready for the onslaught of inventory. Indeed, the company was "a little bit careless" in executing the makeover, Mr. Lederer said this month.

At the same time as the warehouses were being shut or overhauled, the company was preparing to move 2,000 administrative employees to its new headquarters in Brampton, Ont., from a number of offices in Canada. That's where things started to get really bogged down. Some people decided to quit rather than move, specifically a good half of the 150 general merchandise product buyers in Calgary. Merchandise purchasers play an important role at a retailer, and were badly needed at Loblaw. But just when it needed them most, many of Loblaw's key people were instead thinking either about looking for new jobs or spending time house-hunting in Ontario.

The staff turnover, and general turmoil, hit many suppliers hard.

"What's been really frustrating is the rapid change in people," one supplier says. "The guy that was buying last week isn't buying this week and may not be buying next week. It's been very difficult." (Suppliers asked not to be identified out of fear of Loblaw's clout.)

Adds another supplier, who had several thousand dollars' worth of general merchandise turned away repeatedly from a backlogged Loblaw warehouse last fall: "When buyers leave, you don't have any continuity. Mistakes are made."

There were just too many irons in the fire all at once -- too many changes occurring concurrently, admits Loblaw spokesman Geoffrey Wilson. (Mr. Lederer declined to be interviewed.) The team in Western Canada, where the grocer had an established general merchandise business at older superstores, was accustomed to doing business in the same way, and wasn't able to focus properly on the transformation.

"They were not as prepared as they should have been to accept this change -- partly because of all of the things happening and partly because we could have managed it better," Mr. Wilson says.

The company has begun to slow its pace of change. But it hasn't been easy on suppliers, who have borne their share of bruises along with Loblaw. As one large food supplier puts it: "When Loblaw burps, everybody feels a bit of the pain along the way."

One vendor, who also asked to stay anonymous, shipped tens of thousands of dollars' worth of general merchandise to the Calgary warehouse last June, only to have the shipment refused. The boxes sat for three or four months in containers before making it into the warehouse, when he was finally paid, he says. "I don't think I was the only one."

Backlogs last summer were compounded by the Vancouver port strike, Mr. Wilson says, although he insists that delays were generally a matter of "days, not months."

Because of the delivery foul-ups, particularly with general merchandise, Loblaw put off heavily marketing the goods and spreading the word that it had added an array of non-grocery items.

"They're not promoting things that they're having trouble getting to the stores because all they do is end up disappointing their shopper," says an executive at a major packaged goods firm. "They should be growing that side of their business but they are not."

The snafus resulted in indirect costs too. The stores scheduled night crews to unpack boxes that never arrived, or arrived in inadequate quantities; suppliers shipped goods straight to stores rather than to warehouses, racking up extra labour and transportation costs; Loblaw was forced to mark down prices of many seasonal goods (such as toys for Christmas) that came late to stores.

"If you don't get the seasonal product in at the right time and you don't have enough selling time, you have to move too early in a markdown situation," Mr. Lederer has said. "So the reality of general merchandise is it is perishable as well."

The problems haven't been limited to the loading docks. Displays at stores often have looked scattered because of empty shelves. Some of the earlier, smaller superstores don't have a complete range of general merchandise, thus confusing consumers, says Mr. Watt, who helped design Wal-Mart's U.S. supercentres, which combine groceries and general merchandise.

Loblaw superstores are so big that they can be difficult to navigate, he says. And there are often fewer customers in the non-grocery sections because many people just aren't aware of all the new items that the outlets now carry, he says. Mr. Watt, chairman of DW + Partners in Toronto, was instrumental in developing its first superstores in Western Canada about 25 years ago, as well as its iconic President's Choice private label.

The challenge is to differentiate itself from Wal-Mart by emulating U.S. discounter Target Corp. and focus on adding flare to home goods and fashions at a low price, he adds.

In this vein, the grocer's troubles may go beyond logistics, some analysts say. The chain runs the risk that its new discount superstores may increasingly cannibalize sales at its conventional supermarkets, says Keith Howlett, retailing analyst at Desjardins Securities. And its push to reduce prices may bode badly for the bottom line for a little while yet.

"We continue to grapple with whether transitory supply chain issues are able to fully account for Loblaw's weak sales and earnings performance in 2005 and as projected for 2006," Mr. Howlett says in a recent report.

No matter how you slice it, the numbers aren't pretty. Last year, the grocer saw its same-store sales, a key retailing barometer that excludes the impact of annual store openings and closings, barely grow at all while they slipped 0.7 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Store productivity, measured in sales per square feet, dropped 2.4 per cent last year to $590.25, Mr. Howlett estimates.

While Mr. Lederer foresees a turnaround by the second half of this year, others aren't as sure.

"We are not fully convinced that all the necessary components of the company's transformation will have fallen into place by then," Mr. Howlett writes. Not only do internal cost reductions need to take hold, but both Loblaw employees and customers need to embrace the changes. "A great company is transforming itself dramatically in Canada's largest markets of Ontario and Quebec," he says. "Timing is hard to predict."

Certainly, Mr. Lederer is moving to tackle the problems. But he is facing big hurdles, not the least being the Wal-Mart juggernaut. And then there are the tough labour talks in Ontario, where lowering payroll expenses is a critical goal. After all, in Wal-Mart, he is taking on a powerful non-unionized rival whose low cost base is at least partly a result of notoriously low compensation for its employees.

Loblaw is in the midst of negotiations with the union representing employees at its Ontario traditional supermarkets, some of which the retailer wants to convert to discount superstores. That province is the focus of the superstore expansion as well as the branching into a wider range of higher-margin goods, from towels to toys to tumblers. A few years ago, when the company was launching those Ontario outlets, it was successful in getting the union members to agree to lower pay scales for general merchandise staff.

Now Mr. Lederer is expected to seek further wage cuts from the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The UFCW, for its part, is only in the early stages of the talks. But union leaders "are all concerned about Wal-Mart growing those Wal-Mart superstores," national director Michael Fraser says.

On the procurement front, Loblaw has hired new product buyers, while on the supply chain side, the glitches are being ironed out at warehouses. The food end of the business is up to scratch, company executives say, while general merchandise will be mended by the summer.

To ensure long-term stability, Mr. Lederer has plucked a supply chain veteran from Wal-Mart itself to head up those crucial operations at Loblaw. To bolster product offerings, Loblaw is scrambling to "Target-ize" its private label offerings, tapping into style meister Joseph Mimran of hip fashion chain Club Monaco fame to put his stamp on the new lines.

Last fall, Loblaw launched a line of PC home products. In March, the superstores will begin carrying a new line of clothing, developed by Mr. Mimran exclusively for Loblaw and called Joe Fresh styles.

And to make superstores more shopper friendly, Loblaw recently rejigged the layout of some Ontario stores and installed colour-coded signs to make it easier for shoppers to find their way around and to flag low prices.

Once the company feels it has a handle on its logistic headaches, it will try to get some attention with a cranked-up marketing campaign. It is looking at relying less on flyers and considering advertising on television, radio, billboards and on-line, company executives have said.

As Mr. Watt says: "They need to find ways to tell people about their stores . . . There is a sense of urgency here."


Number of Loblaw warehouse job cuts. The company is closing six warehouses in Ontario and Quebec in a bid to streamline operations. Loblaw began 2005 with 32 facilities across the country and ended the year with 28.


Decline in Loblaw stock price over the past year. The warehouse and supply chain woes have cut a hole in Loblaw's bottom line. The problems cost $10-millin in the fourth quarter alone. Out-of-stock signs have left investors out of luck.


Number of President's Choice toasters sold so far. President John Lederer said customers have purchases 20,000 PC coffee makers. A thousand PC-branded general merchandise items were launched in 2004. But the cookware and sleepsets have had trouble getting to stores because of warehouse snags and supply chain problems.


Number of Real Canadian Superstores in 2004. These are the stores where Loblaw is stocking most of its general merchandise items. There are roughly 20 in Ontario. General merchandise staff at superstores has lower pay scales than their food counterparts.


Number of administrative positions relocated to the new head office in Brampton, Ont. About half of the general merchandise buyers based in Calgary didn't make the move. Other were distracted by house-hunting and family pressures caused by the mid-school-year disruption.

"It has to be said that probably we - I - went a little bit too fast. And, obviously, you learn from that."

John Lederer, Loblaw president
Loblaw launches new fashion line
Last Updated Mon, 13 Mar 2006 13:32:35 EST
CBC News

Loblaw Companies Ltd. launched a new line of designer fashions Monday as it beefed up its range of offerings to meet competition from uber-retailer Wal-Mart.
Named Joe Fresh Style in keeping with Loblaw's core business, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, they are designed by Joe Mimran, the Canadian behind the chic Club Monaco and Caban labels, as well as upscale Holt Renfrew fashions.

The new collection will include more than 350 apparel items for men and women. The maximum price is $40 with an average price of just $13.

Just as important for jaded men fashion shoppers, Loblaw promised "an enjoyable, fun shopping experience." Fitting rooms will be big enough for a stroller and shopping cart, with one-stop check-outs.

"We are thrilled to offer our customers a wide selection of casual apparel items that fit today's lifestyle," said Louise Drouin, senior vice-president in charge of the Hard & Soft Line department. "We understand our customers lead busy and budget-conscious lives, and are committed to providing them with the convenience of a one-stop shop for all their daily needs."

The clothes went on sale Monday morning at 40 Superstores.

The company says the new clothing line will be simple and elegant, with an Asian influence brought by Alfred Sung, who has been associated with Mimran since their days together at Club Monaco.

Shoppers will be able to mix and match modern, chic apparel, priced at the lower end of the fashion spectrum.

"Our goal with Joe Fresh Style was to create a line of clothing that is accessible and affordable to Canadians," Mimran announced. "The level of style, quality and fit is extremely high and complemented by outstanding value."

Loblaw stock (TSX:L)fell 30 cents to finish at $57.09.

Loblaw is just one part of George Weston Ltd., a giant Canadian food and retailing empire that bakes Wonderbread and produces Neilson chocolates. It operates supermarkets across Canada under a wide variety of brand names, led by Loblaws, sells the President's Choice line of foods and operates Holt Renfrew fashion stores.

The chairman is Galen Weston, husband of Ontario's former lieutenant-governor Hilary Weston.

Loblaw has been diversifying away from its roots in recent years as it bulks up, adds new lines and bigger stores in a bid to meet competition from Wal-Mart, the giant U.S. chain that already sells a complete line of home supplies, hardware, clothing, pharmaceuticals and food, all at bargain-basement prices.

In England, Wal-Mart has taken the grocery business by storm through its purchase of the Asda chain, a major supermarket network that offers much the same food as Weston stores at discount prices.

Loblaw is clearly worried that the same thing will happen in Canada. It is trying to meet Wal-Mart head on by adding pharmacy products, kitchenware and even gasoline pumps in big, new superstores and lower-cost bulk food stores.
Courtesy: Toronto Star

Loblaw eyes hungry condo dwellers
May open smaller stores downtown
May 5, 2006

Canada's biggest supermarket chain says it wants to open more mid-sized conventional grocery stores in downtown Toronto to serve the booming condominium market.

But Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said it must first strike more deals with its unions, similar to the ones it got for its Ontario superstores, to remain competitive with non-union rivals.

The company, which reported another quarter of soft sales and earnings yesterday, also said its general-merchandise business continues to struggle.

First quarter profit fell 1.4 per cent to $140 million, or 51 cents a share, while sales inched up 1.4 per cent to $6.1 billion, the company said.

Loblaw chairman and major shareholder Galen Weston expressed faith in the company, which has been restructuring for four years.

"I'm confident in the strategy that has been embarked upon. Change of this magnitude is not easy and we have had our share of challenges," Weston told shareholders at Loblaw's annual general meeting.

During the period, the company brought its western Canadian "superstore'' concept to Ontario and moved its general-merchandise team from Calgary to Brampton. For the first time, it also outsourced a new warehouse to a third-party supplier.

The resulting disruption has at times left store shelves empty, which in turn hurt Loblaw profit and sales.

Loblaw said its food operations are now back to normal and the general merchandise business will be on track by the end of the second quarter.

"None of us takes pleasure in the impact these challenges have had on sales, earnings and share price performance," said Loblaw president John Lederer.

"We believe our performance will stabilize by the end of the second quarter ... and earnings will improve during the balance of the year," he added.

Loblaw's share price, already down 24.8 per cent this year, shed another 9 cents to close at $55.51 on the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday.

The company said it plans to continue opening more superstores, which compete with Wal-Mart on price and selection. But Weston cautioned the era of the superstore may be coming to a close "at least in terms of the rapid growth we see right now." Loblaw operates 80 such stores, which carry both food and household goods, including clothing and furniture, mainly in suburban centres.

Those stores face increased competition as Wal-Mart adds the full assortment of fresh produce and meat to its Canadian stores later this year.

That challenge may be one reason why Loblaw is now looking at smaller, more convenient stores to serve busy urban consumers. Such stores would be roughly half the size of the superstores and carry mainly food.

Loblaw already has two locations picked out for downtown Toronto and would add more if they were successful, Weston said.

Sites include the former Maple Leaf Gardens arena on Carlton St. and another near Bathurst St. and Lakeshore Blvd. W.

Loblaw is also trying to reach busy urban shoppers by placing some of its President's Choice products in gas station convenience stores.

The company may also build some bigger No Frills discount stores in rural areas.

Sales at stores open more than a year declined 2.5 per cent, a trend that Lederer said reflected consumers' growing preference for shopping across several stores.

Loblaw may be cannibalizing same-store sales as it replaces older stores with larger superstores, said John Chamberlain, an analyst with Dominion Bond Rating Services Ltd.

Chamberlain said the warehouse restructuring was the right thing to do, given the Wal-Mart challenge.
Loblaw bets on apparel

Image consultant Daniela Mastragostino looks through Joe Fresh apparel at a Loblaws store in Toronto. The supermarket chain, which last month reported its first annual loss in 20 years, says the clothing line could grow to a $1 billion business within two years as it puts the brand in more stores.

Feb 22, 2007 04:30 AM
Dana Flavelle
business reporter
Canada's largest food retailer is betting its future success lies partly in an unexpected direction – clothing.

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said its Joe Fresh brand of apparel could be a $1 billion business within two years, as it begins adding more categories, such as kids and accessories, and putting the brand in more stores.

The beleaguered company also committed to cut prices, boost service and invest in product innovation in a bid to "Make Loblaw The Best Again," the title of a strategy session with analysts yesterday.

As expected, the company offered few quick fixes – such as selling off assets or buying back stock – that would instantly boost shareholder value.

Instead, new executive chair Galen G. Weston outlined a package of fixes that he said could boost profit by 10 per cent, sales by 5 per cent and free cash flow to $250 million within three to five years.

The troubled food retailer, which last month reported its first annual loss in 20 years, mainly due to one-time costs, outlined a detailed plan that would see it spend the next 12 months fixing its existing stores.

The company said it would stop building new superstores until the "economics of those new formats and new stores are proven." The decision doesn't affect stores already in the pipeline, such as the one scheduled to open in Milton in August.

Its first Real Canadian Superstores in Ontario have disappointed so far, though the company said it believes they can be turned around and that they are "the right platform for growth for this business," Weston said.

"It's slightly challenged in Ontario, and for 2007 we're going to make some changes to that format, test those changes and make sure that when we roll it out, with further capital and further square footage, it will be on the back of a formula that absolutely works."

The company operates 1,000 stores across Canada under various names, including Loblaws, No Frills, Fortinos and Maxi.

The company's plans for Maple Leaf Gardens remained vague, despite the fact the analyst meeting was held in the hockey shrine, at centre ice.

Beyond saying it would be "a great Canadian food store," the company offered no further details.

An official told the Toronto Star earlier the company could begin cleaning out the interior this summer, followed by 22 months of construction.

Weston, who took over the troubled company last fall, painted a stark picture of a business in disarray after two years of inner turmoil that was supposed to make Loblaws more competitive with non-traditional rivals. "We need to improve virtually every key driver of the business.

"We have not been focused on our core strength of being the best food retailer in Canada, our organization is too complex and is ineffective and slow to respond to the customer and to the competitive environment," Weston admitted.

"Our actual prices relative to Wal-Mart's are significantly higher than we thought," Weston said. One chart showed Loblaws prices were 20 per cent higher than Wal-Mart in some categories.

"We are not delivering the right value for money and we are not getting the credit with the customer for the investments that we do make," Weston said.

In some stores, staff were using pencil and paper to track inventory, analysts heard. Within the executive ranks, no one knew who had bottom line responsibility for store profits, they also heard.

Loblaw executives outlined a detailed action plan for making immediate improvements in all of its stores, including designating some stores as "learning centres" where new staff receive training, and creating store "clocks" that ensure goods get moved from the back door to the shelves on time.

Several analysts questioned the food retailer's continuing focus on non-food merchandise, the area that seemed to trip it up in the first place.

But Mark Foote, who joined Loblaw Cos. from Canadian Tire last year, said the company has lots of room to grow, especially in pharmacy, kitchen gadgets and clothing.

Loblaw executives said the Joe Fresh line of stylish but cheap apparel, which is carried in only 100 stores so far, is popular and profitable and will help get the company back on track.

At one point, Weston, the 34-year-old son of billionaire W. Galen Weston, made an impassioned speech that drew parallels with his father's track record at the firm and urged investors to be patient and have faith.

Weston Sr. took over the business in his early 30s and stayed for 40 years, a course the younger Weston said he intends to follow. Along the way, his father created a retailing powerhouse.

"I think the management team in place is the right one," said Don Povilaitis, an analyst with Standard & Poor's. "I think their strategy is very well thought out and measured and logical. But it will take time. This is not a quick fix.''

"The issues they identified were consistent with our concerns," said John Chamberlain of Dominion Bond Rating Services. ``The challenges will be executing and convincing customers. Fixing food is critical because I think consumers have lost confidence Loblaws will have the right products at the right price."
Loblaws - renovations at Bayview/Moore

I just stopped in to check out the new/renovated/expanded Loblaws at Bayview and Moore.

I can report a drastic improvement.

Overall Store Appearance:

Prepapred Foods/Deli/Bakery grouped together in new area, features slate tile, maple woods.

The rest of the store is much improved over the previous version of this store, but nothing too unusual for a loblaws, except for 'intergrated organics' like Metro they've grouped organic/natural products on the shelf in the main part of the store, and signed the shelving in bright green. Also, first time in ages, I've seen a supermarket built with a drop-ceiling again, nothing special about it, though it looks fine, just strange after all these years of exposed rafters.

Change to Product Offer:

Far and away the big change is in prepared foods and bakery.

They had nice sandwiches (made in store)
Freshly squeezed O.J.
Fancy Pizzas (Mozzrella di Buffalo style, nice presentation, fresh basil etc.)
Side dishes prepped (Asparagus, Green Beans, washed, par-cooked)
Fancy Salads (Shrimp, Octopus)
Hot Counter - no more crappy chicken fingers! Roasted Root Veg, Grilled Salmon, Stuffed Peppers etc.)
Salad Bar - Edible, Real, Thin-sliced Medium Rare Flank Steak (only 1.89/100g), a bunch of other good stuff, ratatouille, Roast Pork, etc.

In Bakery, individual slices of cake that actually looked tempting 'Branded as Baker Street Cakes, all-natural, no preservatives, artificial flavours/colours'
Also new Apples pies. Picked up the cake, haven't tried that yet.

Overall, its not Whole Foods, or Pusateri's; but a BIG step forward for Loblaws, best store design/layout in ages! :)
How does it compare to the Great Food concept they launched a few years back at the Yonge & Yonge location?

There are many similarities, but some differences I observed.

Forget architecture cause in both stores you have a pre-existing building that had to be worked with.

As far the differences:

The Bakery has more single-serve and a higher proportion of upscale/all-natural items vs what I remember seeing at Yonge/Yonge

The prepared foods is probably fairly similar in total size, but some changes in emphasis. For instance, a slightly smaller salad bar, a different set-up for the deli, overall its a very compact configuration. The look in the produce section is different, less farmers-market'ish; more conventional/urban, but nicer finishes than what they have normally used (solid wood etc.)

I didn't notice any organic meat; though they carry the Beretta Ranch line in the butcher case.

One change of note, is that they ditched the all high-end product area next to produce and basically integrated it in the store, some in deli on shelf-tops; but much of it on the shelf, the up-market salad dressings have a special steel case; while the several fancy olive oils are stored in a wine rack like contraptions made of wood barrels (in the regular aisle, next to the normally shelved oils).

The highlighted organics/natural thing is different from Great Foods too, while much of the same product is there, its organized a bit differently.
Thanks NL for the details...although I'm surprised to see that there are so many differences between the two locations. I was under the understanding that Yonge/Yonge would serve as the model/template going forward for their Great Food store concept.
Hmm, if they are expanding that location, what's to become of the Loblaws on Redway Road off Millwood ... which is often very empty as it is; I'd think that with an expansion at Bayview, and the Great Canadian store at Eglinton/Don Mills the Redway store may be superfluous.
Yonge/Yonge location was the first to get the Great Food makeover a few years back now, and from what I recall, it was a successful transition. Not sure where Millwood location fits into the discussion though.
Bauhaus, I think the locations are more similar than not. Obviously there are major architectural differences given what they had to work with (Yonge/Yonge was their nicest store pretty much; while Moore was a cesspit!)

But, they have definitely tweaked some concepts. First time I remember seeing them carry organic rapini (baby broccoli) or organic cilantro.

The Moore store is still comparatively small, but so is Yonge/Yonge, so I'm not sure how that factored.

The exterior look by the way is similar to the Queen's Quay concept, but obviously a much smaller 1-level store.

I asked someone at Loblaws about store concepts and such; they said every store evolves, but Moore is the latest concept retrofit. They said prepared foods are getting a boost at every store, though Loblaws is not yet ready to try in-store chefs; they are watching Sobey's Cityplace closely to see how that goes.
Great Food was launched about a year ago at Yonge/Yonge, Collingwood and Burnhamthorpe and 427. It was part of Galen Jr's revamp to make Loblaws the great food store it once was. This, of course, was after they tried to take on WalMart with their Superstore concept where they found they couldn't compete with hard goods, housewares, etc. They also lost site of their produce and meat departments in this concept. Produce was an absolute joke.

Further to the Great Food revamp they also stopped building 160,000sf stores and figured the 70,000-80,000 was the proper size for the food concept with regularly aligned aisles. This size also allows for the JOE store, smaller perfume area, pharmacy and PC branded home goods (no sheets, KitchenAid blenders, etc)

I love the Great Food concept. Sure, it isn't as "cool" and innovative as Whole Foods, but their selection is as good if not better of gourmet items (organic meats are somewhat inconsistent), great produce, great cheese boutique and bakery and you can still afford paper towels and Tide (unlike WF).