Here in Sudbury, most customers still do their grocery shopping the old fashioned way.
They drive to the supermarket, load up a shopping cart with the items on their list — and maybe a few that aren't — and proceed through the often long checkout lines.
It takes most of us at least an hour complete the chore and it can be a bit of a hassle.
But the Real Canadian Superstore on Lasalle Boulevard — which is owned by Canadian grocery giant Loblaws — is offering their customers a new way to stock their pantries — one that offers greater convenience and takes much less time than the conventional trip to the supermarket.
It's called Click and Collect, and the Sudbury store is one of 140-some Loblaws-owned locations across Canada that offers it.
Click and Collect is on online service. Customers select their groceries on the Real Canadian Superstore website, place their order and an employee at the store — called “Personal Shoppers” — put their order together and package it all up for pickup.
When the customer comes to pick up their order, they don't even need to enter the store. An employee brings it out to their car for them.
It costs customers $3 to $5 a pop to use the service but it cuts the chore of getting groceries down to a lean 20 minutes or less.
Sudbury.com took a video camera out to the Real Canadian Superstore earlier today to see how Click and Collect works. Click the play button above to watch the video.
In the highly competitive grocery industry, where profit margins are already razor thin, online shopping only makes up a fraction of the market — but it is gaining ground.
Michael von Massow, an associate professor in food economics at the University of Guelph, said Canadians lag behind Americans when it comes to using online grocery pickup services, though they are catching up and it is a market with potential to grow.
He said the key for retailers like Loblaws and Walmart, which is also rolling out an online service in select markets, is locking in first-time consumers. Research shows they are unlikely to switch once they become accustomed to ordering online.
"If you can get their first order, you're more likely to get their second order," he said.
The potential for market growth in web-based grocery shopping prompted Walmart Canada on Aug. 1 to cancel its $2.97 charge for customers who order groceries online and pick them up in stores.
While the fee was modest, the company's internal studies indicated it was a barrier preventing some people from using their online grocery pickup service, said Daryl Porter, vice-president of online grocery for Walmart Canada.
"Even though it's a small dollar amount, it means something," Porter said. "We want to remove that fee and give people a better chance to try it."
Walmart won't reveal how many customers use its online grocery service, citing competitive reasons. The service launched in Ottawa in July 2015, about a year after Loblaws first rolled out Click in the Toronto area.
Walmart Canada has since expanded it to the Greater Toronto Area, Calgary and Edmonton, and Porter said there are plans to bring it to a fifth market that will be unveiled in about a month.
Von Massow said online grocery delivery services have struggled to gain market share because people want to "squeeze that avocado" — they don't want to order produce online.
He said he thinks Amazon and Walmart Canada may eventually adopt a "hybrid" shopping model where customers can order their packaged groceries online, pick them up, and buy fresh food such as fruit and vegetables in-store.
With files from The Canadian Press