Loblaws introduces a non-food item strategy to help get its edible priorities in line

Marc Weisblott
National Affairs Reporter
Daily Brew

"They have to start from zero again," said Dave Nicol, formerly known as the presidential face behind President's Choice, when he surveyed the shelves filled with non-food items at a Loblaws store almost five years ago.

Galen Weston Jr., born into the supermarket chain his grandfather acquired in 1947, had just been appointed its executive chairman at age 33 in 2006. Around that time, a story in Report on Business magazine speculated as to whether he could get the job done.

The latest move will position all those inedible offerings as distinct from the groceries that presumably remain the main draw for Loblaw. And, that has meant giving it a slightly futuristic, and slightly retroactive, brand name: everydayliving.

Joseph Mimran, whose Joe Fresh apparel boutiques proved a successful use of existing Loblaw real estate, was recruited to extend his aesthetic to other departments.

Everyday Essentials will be introduced as the brand name for cheap housewares, Tera Gear items will be dedicated to outdoor living and camping, and the photo processing departments will be upgraded for the digital age.

Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is an effort to extend the Joe Fresh attitude to a small electronics and stationery line called J±.

Previously, all the diversions developed to compete with the likes of Walmart also meant an increase in the number of complaints about favourite products being out of stock.

Food supply issues continued to plague Loblaw even after Galen Jr., also known as "G2" based on his middle initial, started to appear in commercials to pick up the personable President's Choice pitchman role that Nicol left behind after his departure in 1993.

More recent marketing moves included a reinvigoration of the lower-case no name generic brand, and its simplistic black Helvetica font on yellow packaging, plus a growing emphasis on the health-conscious PC Blue Menu.

G2 has recently committed $3 million to the study of sustainable food production at the University of Guelph, where academics will explore ways to make healthy food more affordable and accessible than the processed kind.

While you are waiting for that to happen, though, you can always do your banking at President's Choice Financial, survey smartphones at the Mobile Shop, and maybe even buy some wine.

(Reuters Photo)