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Toronto Retail: Ecommerce and technology

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Canadian ecommerce sales for retail in 2022 were down 2.4 percent year-over-year to $4.4 billion across all categories. Ecommerce’s 6.5-percent share of total retail trade fell 0.6 percent from its December 2021 level, according to Statistics Canada.

In a PwC Canada 2022 survey, the percentage of consumers shopping online at least monthly dropped from 56 percent in April 2021 to 51 percent in the July 2022 survey.

But these declines came after an increase of 67.2 percent from February 2020 to July 2022, and an increase in share from 3.9 percent in 2019 to 6.2 percent as of July 2022, though the share had climbed as high as 6.9 percent during the peak of the pandemic.

Sales remain significantly higher than prepandemic levels, signaling the change in purchasing behavior is likely to remain.

Courting convenience

As a result, retailers are working to improve their ecommerce programs in a variety of ways.

Last year, Walmart Canada expanded its partnership with Instacart, which began in 2018, to pilot a virtual convenience store in Toronto called Walmart Now.

It launched with 4,000 items available for delivery in as little as 30 minutes, via Instacart or the Instacart-powered Walmart Now site, to more than 40 percent of households in the GTA. Fresh groceries are among the items available, fulfilled from 10 Toronto-area stores.

The announcement was followed, by just a few days, that Loblaw and DoorDash were launching a similar service, PC Express Rapid Delivery, in the The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and two other areas.

Fulfillment is from delivery-specific distribution centers owned and operated by DoorDash and supplied by Loblaws. Ordering is done through a dedicated area on the DoorDash app or at

For those seeking more in-store choices and convenience, Empire-owned Longo’s opened the first “virtual food hall” inside a grocery store in Toronto in September 2022 at its Liberty Village location, in partnership with Kitchen Hub.

The onsite smorgasbord offers full menus from Toronto restaurants PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, Mandy’s Gourmet Salads, Cabano’s Comfort Food, and Tecolote. Customers can mix and match items from all four and add grab-and-go offerings from Cheesecake Factory and Elle Dee bakeries.

Also available is Longo’s assortment of ready-to-eat offerings like pizza, sushi bento boxes, breakfasts, or roasted chicken. Orders can be placed online or at, through third-party delivery apps, or in Kitchen Hub kiosks in the store.

Leveraging technology

Retailers in the GTA are also making other technology improvements to create efficiencies for ecommerce and beyond.

Walmart Canada upgraded the technology in its Scarborough store in 2022 to allow it to fulfill as many as 1,200 customer orders per day to more than 70 percent of downtown Toronto customers.

Order picking with the new technology, from Dematic Software, can be done six times faster than on a regular sales floor, as well as allowing for tighter inventory control, freshness management, and other attributes.

For its part, Loblaw partnered with Gatik, an autonomous logistics company, to become the first operator in Canada to launch a driverless grocery delivery truck, after a test period that safely completed 150,000 autonomous deliveries since January 2020.

The company operates five trucks, one fully driverless and four with a safety driver on board. They run 12 hours a day, picking up orders from a distribution facility and bringing them to retail locations in the GTA.

Loblaw says the trucks will enable it to make more trips across more routes and enhance supply chain safety, sustainability, and resilience.

This is an excerpt from the May/June 2023 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine’s Ontario Supplement. Click here to read the whole supplement.