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Jun 2, 2007 08:36 AM

Loblaws/No Frills/Superstore - prices?

I live very near a No Frills (the "banana store" in our house, or "Pas de Frills") and do most of my "regular" grocery shopping there. I don't go to Loblaws because for basics, I am shopping on price - I'm not willing to pay the uptick of Loblaw's prices for the food I would otherwise get at No Frills.

Yesterday I was in the Superstore at Don Mills and Eglinton. I thought it was a Loblaws-style store in terms of price - but their flyer, which I picked up on the way out, seemed to pitch it as a discount place.

Has anyone done any price comparisons between Superstore and Loblaws? Is Superstore cheaper than Loblaws?

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  1. To the best of my knowledge. Which may be wrong. The Super Centres opened up when Loblaws had some union issues with their cashiers. This was a way to get around said issues. I've shopped at all three places and consider SC and Loblaws the same place. Just different name.


    3 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      That may be true here, but Superstore has been operating successfully in Western Canada for almost 25 years.

      My experience is that Superstore, Loblaws and Value Mart all have the same basic price structure. If you compare flyers, most of the sale items are the same as are the prices. The one difference is that Superstore will have many more unadvertised in-store promotions than the others. The trade-off is that it is a big store that takes more time to navigate and shop at.

      No Frills is by far the cheapest of them all, although the quality may not be quite the same as the others.

      My wife and I are careful shoppers, watch our flyers religiously. We then create menus and shop according to whats on sale (especially with meat items). Usually, though, we still end up buying our produce from one of three little stores local to us as their prices as a whole are better than the big stores.

      1. re: Davwud

        Superstores were opened in Ontario to get around the unionized workforce (all employees not just cashiers) and to compete with the Wal-Mart Superstores (with larger food sections) that were entering Canada (they're here now).
        Their strategy is to price match against Wal-Mart, and each week have hot pricing on their flyer items to draw in the crowds. They are cheaper than Loblaws and should be comparable to No Frills, but I haven't done a full side by side recently.

        1. re: thebutcher

          The workers are unionised in Real Canadian Superstores. Loblaws negotiated with the unions to pay lower wages in some areas so that they could compete with Wal-Mart but they are still union workers.

      2. I think I can clarify this a bit more.

        No Frills should be cheaper across the board, sometimes (but not always) significantly. Very limited selection, limited service, bag your own, bags extra. The shopping experience depends on the manager or franchisee. Some are well managed and some are disgusting places to shop. Many have excellent produce at very good prices. Meat quality can also be decent, depending on what the owners/managers are willing to accept. They are usually much better places to shop than Food Basics or Price Chopper, their main competitors.

        Loblaw stores are the most expensive across the board. In theory, you should find top quality at rational prices with top drawer service. The reality can be quite different. Loblaws was revived from near death in the seventies. For at least 20 years, they were the hottest grocery chain in North America, likely the most profitable, and they could do no wrong. People came from around the world (literally) to study their success. President's Choice is still mainly unique, though becoming less so with time. Wal-Mart didn't open Supercenters here in part because Loblaws represented too great a threat to their success.

        As so often happens with very successful businesses, Loblaws became arrogant and stopped listening to their customers. Prices rose, quality dropped, and service tanked. Loblaws was once considered a good place to work and full time staff still gets decent pay and benefits. Even part timers get at least some benefits. But staff now fear for their jobs and service is non-existent at many stores. Some store managers try hard, and the quality of fresh meat and produce varies from one location to another. At the best stores, meat, fish, and produce are great. But there is no way for a store manager to order something not on the corporate inventory list (a must at a high-end store). At my (full-price) neighbourhood Loblaws, Leslie/Lakeshore, you bag your own groceries and nobody cares much about anything. At Queens Quay and Gerrard/Vic Park, things are much better. The latest Weston heir to take over was apparently shocked at how expensive Loblaws has become. There will be big changes, probably soon.

        Superstore is, simply, a disaster. The idea was, indeed, to scare Wal-Mart away from opening their Supercenters in Ontario. These stores were successful in Western Canada, but management arrogance and incompetence doomed them here. The huge stores are illogically designed and extremely hard to navigate. The grocery stock is similar to any Loblaws and has nothing in common with a No Frills. Prices are mainly identical to Loblaws, with some items priced a bit lower (PC pop that is $.99 at Loblaws might be $.97 at Superstore and $.89 at No Frills). The flyer items at Loblaws and at Superstores often differ. There may be more weekly loss leaders in a Superstore flyer.

        They set up Superstore as a separate corporation so they could go non-union, but the union caved and accepted a contract that paid "non-food" staff less than than "grocery" staff. The pay and benefits are still better than at Wal-Mart, but the disparities are less extreme. But the big difference at the Superstores is the "general merchandise", and these departments are pathetic. They transferred the general merchandise buyers from Alberta to Brampton, and I don't think many of them made the move. The selection is, to be polite, quirky, and it is sparse. The shelves are often bare, and nobody at the store level knows anything about the stock. In short, they have no idea what they are doing and seem to have admitted as much. I don't think they will open any more Superstores in Ontario (except, possibly, at Maple Leaf Gardens).

        It's interesting to note that they tried this once before, and flopped badly back then. The entire Golden Mile plaza in Scarborough (i.e., including Zellers and the mall) was initially a "superstore" format. It was so big that the staff wore roller skates to get around the store. But they so feared "cannibalizing" Loblaws that they obscured their ownership (you couldn't use a Loblaws cheque cashing card there) and never figured out how to promote the place.

        Even earlier, back in the sixties, Steinberg's of Montreal tried the superstore formart with their Miracle Marts, which were pretty much what the Wal-Mart Supercenters are now. I recall one in Toronto (Jane/Wilson) and there were a few more here and in other cities. But they were grocers, like Loblaws, and could never make the general merchandise departments turn a profit.

        ValuMart stores are a different deal. These are independent grocers who buy mainly from Loblaws wholesale division, National Grocers, and are able to sell PC products. But they aren't actually part of Loblaws.

        12 Replies
        1. re: embee

          Quite the explanation, embee, thanks. I can only speak of my experience with the stores, and generally I avoid No Frills because I buy a lot of fruits and veggies and the quality is not there. I have often kicked myself for shopping at the Leslie & Lakeshore Loblaws after discovering, the following day that the Don Mills & Eglinton Superstore is selling what seems like the same red peppers for a dollar less per pound, for example. I find the biggest price difference is in the produce, and that the Superstore can be priced significantly below the Lakeshore Loblaws. Not sure about other Loblaws or Superstore locations, though.

          1. re: Full tummy


            There are a few NF's around that have fish and meat counters. They seem to have much much better produce than most Loblaws. And ALL Dominions.

            There's a NF like that at the afore mentioned Zellers/NF at Golden Mile in Scarbrorough.


            1. re: Davwud

              Yes, that would be Dickie's, which emerged as a No Frills some time after they gave up on that enormous store and subdivided it. It's still a big store. I'm curious about what will happen there when Zeller's moves out within the year. They are competing with a Wal-Mart Supercentre that's just a few blocks away.

              Jeff, Rose, and Herb's in Riverdale was also a really good No Frills, but it was sold and now, as Dave & Charlotte's, it isn't nearly as nice a shopping experience.

          2. re: embee


            Like the explanation. Out of curiosity, what is your source for this?? Not to offend but anyone can type out an explanation.


            1. re: Davwud

              Combination of things, including some background in the industry, my overall interest in food, friends who work(ed) there, and very public reports in the news media. I can't guarantee 100% accuracy, but I'm pretty confident about the gist of it.

              1. re: embee

                I'm pretty confident about your explanation (so much more than I was looking for, and thank you!) as well - one of my close business contacts has deep roots in Loblaws, having worked there for over 20 years - and now facing layoff). It is interesting - I didn't put together the things I already know about Loblaws to look at why the stores I frequent operate the way they do and why my experience with them is pretty unsatisfying.

                And BTW - those are my Loblaws stores too - that Lakeshore and Leslie one is on my way home from work. I often make a triangle there of the Price Chopper, the Bulk Barn (I do a lot of baking) and the crappy Loblaws. I like the Carlaw No Frills better but don't get there frequently. The Coxwell No Frills is my nabe NF.

              2. re: Davwud

                Gotta agree with Embee also, I have an inside perspective of the industry (not employed by any grocery chain FYI) and my own 2 cents says go to No Frills, if you are not into prepared foods, they are the way to go, in my opinion, approx 10 cents per unit less expensive on non produce items, and a lot less on produce, it is a hit and miss for quality, depending on the store owner, anyone near Peterborough should visit Deiter and Darcy's NF, great product AND service, tho you still bag your own! Now that Im back in Ottawa, where there arent any NF stores, it is one ot the top things I miss about Ptbo.

                1. re: kaymanti

                  I have to say that hitting the NF in Ptbo was something of a revelation - I have previously only lived in towns where NF shopping was scary and done ONLY if absolutely necessary. I love the Deiter and Darcy's NF - the produce selection is only slightly more restricted than at the Loblaws and always just as good.

                  1. re: JennaL

                    Another vote for Dieter and Darcy. There are two NF stores in Peterborough and the other one has a totally pathetic produce dept compared to D + D. I will only go to Loblaws when I've bought what I really need at NF - to fill in the blanks. The store is clean and the produce is fantastic.

                    The Port Hope NF is horrible.

              3. re: embee

                Produce at Loblaws is like Pamela Lee's boobs Too big, too hard and tasteless. and epensive!

                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                  That's how I see it at Dominion too VV. Looks good, though.

                2. re: embee

                  Totally Not About Food but I bought almost an entire summer wardrobe from SuperCentre's "Joe" line this year. Cheap, and I think (?) it's more stylish than soccer Mom. But yeah, food-wise I see no reason to shop there. Some cheap PC cookies and other crap but not great prices or selection on anything else.

                3. I live in Richmond Hill, and can choose from a No Frills, Loblaws, Superstore, Dominion, Wal-Mart, Price Chopper, Bruno's, and Weston Produce.

                  I find No Frills and Price Chopper have the lowest prices on package goods, and reasonable produce prices and quallity. Weston has the best quality produce, while Loblaws prices are just two high. For example, Weston will sell loose red peppers for $0.99/lb, while Loblaws offers four packaged peppers for $3.99.

                  Price Chopper is the only one that has a live fish section, and has some great deals on meat. For example, a whole rib-eye for only $3.99/lb. They also have a prepared Asian foods section with BBQ pork, duck, etc., noodle dishes, dim sum, BBQ buns, etc. Their produce section is OK, and prices are reasonable.

                  When we want great meat, we go to Bruno's. They have really great quality meat (for a price), and a wide variety of marinated meats (lamb, beef, pork, chicken) which make for great variety. It's about 50% more than buying, say, a New York at Loblaws, but they also offer steaks and chops that are 1.5 inches thick, instead of the ones that are less an inch thick at the other stores.

                  The one store I rarely shop for food at is, ironically, Wal-Mart. I don't find their prices any lower than No Frills, and often higher, plus there's no produce. And, as a diabetic, I seem to notice that they lean heavily on high sugar, high carb foods that I can't eat anyway. If I'm in there, and I need milk or bread, I might pick it up, but it would never be my destination of choice.

                  Dominion, perhaps because it's open 24-hours, definitely has the highest prices of all. Their produce is very good, and they have a decent fish and meat section. Their loss leaders are often attractive, although they are often of the "buy one, get one free" variety. I appreciate the convenience of having the store open all the time, but it's rarely my first choice.

                  I'm surprised by all the criticism of the Superstores. We find there are a lot of good deals on general merchandise, they have good quality produce and baked goods, and they certainly have the largest selection, especially of organics. I find them expensive, but I tend to go there for the "shopping excursion", where we're looking for surprise deals, and not with a set shopping list. Yes, the store is big, but that's what makes the trip fun - it's not the quick in and out I experience at No Frills or Price Chopper.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: KevinB

                    Which Price Chopper has a live fish counter??


                    1. re: Davwud

                      Major Mackenzie and Leslie Street in Richmond Hill. There are a lot of Asians in the area, and they tend to demand live fish, lobster, and crab. As I said, they have an entire Asian prepared foods corner right there, where you can pick up freshly cooked noodles and some other Chinese dishes, plus the BBQ counter.

                      1. re: KevinB

                        Great, Thanks

                        I'll have to go by there. Hard to find fresh fish north of Major Mac.


                        1. re: KevinB

                          They also have a little Asian bakery/cafe don't they?

                      2. re: KevinB

                        I might add that the Superstore at Dons Mills & Eg has a very good butcher counter, especially for beef. My wife and I buy our ribeyes, striploins and prime rib roasts there. Excellent prices for well-marbled and aged beef are to be had.

                        1. re: KevinB

                          The Superstores do, indeed, have some good deals. But many in the industry feel that the Superstore adventure has come close to killing the company. It seemed to be a great idea. It certainly rattled Wal-Mart, or we would have had Wal-Mart Supercentres in Ontario years ago. The stores are much nicer than Wal-Mart stores, with expansive aisles and big windows. They undoubtedly cost much more than Wal-Mart stores to build. But they seem to have thrown away most the basic principles of good store design, and they have had some very well documented problems with getting merchandise to the stores and onto the shelves. Getting a buggy down the movator with a load of groceries and a room-size carpet isn't my idea of a good time.

                          1. re: embee

                            I'd like to see more flow in the Supercentres. It's like, once you've finished meandering your way through the grocery section, there's still a whole pile more store left that you have to back track to get to.


                          2. re: KevinB

                            The best combination of price and quality is Longo's. Unfortunately their stores are small and have limited selections on many things.

                            1. re: wordsworth

                              I usually shop at the Dave and Charlotte's No Frills because I live by there but Loblaws, Food Basics and Price Chopper are definitely other options as well since they are also in the neighbourhood. No Frills, Food Basics and Price Choppers usually offer the best prices but at times there are actually some items that are priced cheaper at the more high end stores such as Loblaws and Dominions. So don't always assume that every item advertised in the flyers at Loblaws and Dominion are more expensive than the discounted stores.

                              I've recently come across a website that makes grocery comparison shopping easy and I highly recommend it for all you folks that are like me, price
                              conscious and always wanting to find the cheapest prices for my groceries. Check out at , it has many tools to help grocery shoppers like us save time and money. One great feature that I have to mention is their price book which is a collection of grocery prices,
                              with this you can compare the current sale prices to it's past prices and see if it's really a good price or not.

                              1. re: bobby788

                                Thanks for posting this link, bobby778. I had just been thinking that a comparative grocery shopping site would be great.

                          3. I live sort of equidistant between Dave & Charlotte's No Frills at Carlaw and the Loblaws at Leslie and Lakeshore. I find that generally, for what I can find (which is a good amount, as I focus on Asian cuisine), my groceries cost 50% less at the Chinatown east grocers than they would even at No Frills. The savings on meat, peppers, and other produce are astounding and make me wonder how No Frills - and moreso, Loblaws - can justify their prices given their piss poor customer service. Sure, I get virtually no customer service in Chinatown East, but that's about as much as I get at the big grocers, too.

                            I go to Loblaws occasionally because I generally feel that there are certain items that I'll be able to find there that will be missing at No Frills and Chinatown (which isn't always the case - am I the only one who finds it amazing what essentials grocery stores are lacking these days?) and when my total comes up on the cash, my jaw just about hits the floor. I may as well eat out for those prices: while I may be able to cook quite well, unless I feel like going all out, less effort and less price are involved in just visiting some of the neighbourhood restaurants than a Loblaws shopping trip.

                            1. You folks have put together some fascinating detail on the big box industry. My question might be a bit more fundamental, and therefore slightly off-topic.

                              Why Big box? I live in the city, close to the main arteries, and enjoy the pleasure of walking to some of the mom and pop stores for the various needs. The average corner fruit and veg vendor is usually priced significantly less than the chains, and most tend to hand select the produce, so it's much more fresh. Too many times I've bought bananas at Dominion or Loblaw's, and taken them home to find that within a day they look like they've gone a few rounds.

                              Where possible, I think it makes sense to take your business to where you're not only getting price, but also the quality that goes with a smaller, more attentive retailer.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Snarf

                                I agree. I shop for most of my produce at my corner store at Queen and Euclid. These people are wonderful. They fuss over the produce all day long! The green beans always blow me away. They must trim the ends every day and they are all laid parallel to each other so you can easily see they are all "keepers". I just grab a few handfuls and I'm done. I always laugh to myself when I see the green beans at Dominion all in a jumble with wrinkled ones hiding under mushy ones, etc. "Fresh Obsessed"?! You don't know fresh obsessed.

                                1. re: crawfish

                                  I usually do most of my fruits & vegatables at Bloor West -- plenty of good quality stores in the area.
                                  No Frills is definitely cheaper for canned & packaged goods.
                                  Sobeys & Loblaws are fine for some of their house brands.
                                  The Superstore is pathetic. Went to the Oakville one and found the place so huge and badly organized (on a retail level).