Sobeys’ Parent Company Sees Sales Jump as Restaurants Close, Canadians Stay Home

The parent company of Sobeys and Safeway says sales at its stores surged grew by 37% in the four weeks starting March 8, and 24% in the two weeks before Easter, compared with the same times last year. In a news release on April 15, Empire Company Limited said it started reporting “significantly higher” sales in all formats except fuel on Feb. 28.

The Nova Scotia-based company says sales further accelerated from March 8 onward as customers began to stock up in preparation for possible stay-at-home requirements. “Although initial demand was skewed towards shelf-stable grocery items, sales mix has returned to more usual levels, across both grocery and fresh categories,” Empire said in the release. 

Research firm Nielsen reported that as of March 28, sales of consumer packaged goods have grown by $2.7-billion in Canada since the beginning of the year – outpacing the growth for all of 2019 in just three months. Neilsen estimates more than 80% of that growth is due to COVID-19. Items that have seen the highest growth include thermometers, household gloves, cleaners and bleaches, hand sanitizers and liquid soap. Items that have decreased in sales include insect repellents, sun care, insoles and cosmetics.

Empire added that it is ensuring costs to consumers are held in check and that prices continue to be competitive. “Empire will continue to be vigilant in its attempts to avoid passing on cost increases to customers,” the release said.

The company noted that its fuel sales have decreased by about 40% since March 1 as a result of stay-at-home orders and a sharp decline in fuel prices.

On March 22, Sobeys announced pay increases for front-line workers in stores and distribution centres in an effort to adapt to the increased demand on its stores. Workers with 20 hours or more a week are now getting an extra $2 an hour. At the time, the company said the increases were retroactive to March 8 and would be reassessed in late April. A temporary estimated increase of about 15% was also granted to Loblaws employees in March.

Grocery stores have been installing plexiglass shields at checkout counters in order to ensure the safety of workers. Sobeys and Loblaws are dedicating the first hour of their operating day for seniors to protect the most vulnerable. Empire notes that customer capacity limits and one-way aisles have been created to ensure the safety of customers.

Source: Globe & Mail
Source: Global News


Amazon to Allow Sellers of Nonessential Items to Resume Shipping 

Amazon.com Inc. will begin allowing third-party sellers on its platform to ship “nonessential” items to the e-commerce giant as of the week starting Monday April 13th, a signal that the company is ramping up to meet broader consumer needs, according to a people familiar with the  matter. In March, Amazon made a decision to prioritize so-called essential items such as cleaning products, health-care items and shelf-stable food at its warehouses to meet customer demand. Amazon stopped accepting shipments of items from sellers that didn’t correspond to the shopping needs created by the virus. 

The mandate caused unrest for its army of third-party sellers, which account for 58% of Amazon’s sales. Merchants selling in-demand products saw a nice sales bump from swift changes in customer demand while those in the out-of-favour categories watched their sales tank. While Amazon wasn’t accepting new shipments of goods it deemed non-essential, workers in warehouses around the country said they continued to shelve and ship non-essential items like kickballs, bedsheets and books as well as restock returned items. That generated tension because some workers said they felt Amazon could further restrict the products it sold to better protect warehouse workers. Dozens of employees have contracted the coronavirus, and protests have erupted in New York, Chicago and outside Detroit.

“Later this week, we will allow more products into our fulfillment centers,” said an Amazon spokeswoman. “Products will be limited by quantity to enable us to continue prioritizing products and protecting employees, while also ensuring most selling partners can ship goods into our facilities.”

The tech giant has been inundated by orders as Americans follow shelter-in-place guidance to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, its network of warehouses has struggled to keep up with demand, and shipping times for orders in its Prime program that previously delivered items in one day or less have slipped to as much as a month in some cities. 

On April 13, Amazon announced that it was hiring an additional 75,000 employees to help fill this demand. Over the last month, Amazon has hired more than 100,000 people in full- and part-time jobs in distribution centers and across its delivery network in the U.S. The hiring spree represents almost two-fifths of Amazon’s typical U.S workforce of 500,000. It is unclear how much Amazon is adding to its overall employee count. Third-party sellers of items unrelated to health, wellness and cleaning, will be able to ship inventory to Amazon later this week, but there are limits on how much inventory they can ship, to keep room in the warehouse for essential goods, the people said. 

Having additional hires in the warehouses has helped Amazon ease back into facilitating the sales of products that had been deemed non-essential, said one of the people. With the company’s hiring frenzy while many companies are laying off their staff, Amazon has become one of the biggest employers during the pandemic.

Source: The Star
Source: Financial Post