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Retail Trends

In a Nutshell

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Loblaw Cos. is betting that there’s always room for one more as it prepares to debut a new concept called Nutshell Live Life Well in downtown Toronto this fall.

The Financial Post reports that the concept will include a broad assortment of prepared, fresh and packaged foods, a prescription pharmacy, natural health and beauty products, vitamins and supplements. Loblaw vice president of public relations Julija Hunter notes that Nutshell Live Life Well will have “a community-based and interactive orientation, more broadly focused on health and wellness, with an emphasis of natural value and health.” In addition, she says pharmacists and other local professionals will offer expert in-store health and wellness services. At 9,000 sq. ft., the new store will feature natural light, exposed brick walls and wood beam support pillars.

Hmmm… that sounds a bit like Whole Foods Market, which currently operates nine stores in British Columbia and Ontario and recently announced it could possibly open 40 or more Canadian units as part of broader worldwide expansion. Is Loblaw getting ready to take on Whole Foods?

For now it seems fair to say that the Canadian grocery giant may be looking to snare a larger share of the dollars being spent by Canada’s growing population of health-conscious consumers. Insiders point out that Loblaw plans to carry natural foods and foods from in-house brands like PC Organics and Blue Menu -- lines that emphasize value, as compared to Whole Foods’ offering of branded and private label goods that skew more toward the high end of the pricing scale.

The Canadian grocery scene has been the source of multiple stories this year. Target’s entry into the market appears to have put a tighter squeeze on margins and sparked some pricing wars. Meanwhile, Safeway Canada was purchased by Sobeys earlier this year. (see "Canada's Supermarket Shakeup)