Loblaws opens first No Frills store in 1978

The first store decked out in the chrome yellow of Loblaws' No Name products opens in Toronto in 1978.

Customers love the prices but dislike the colour scheme and packing their own bags

The first store decked out in the chrome yellow of Loblaws' no name products opened last week in Toronto. 2:29
Shoppers at Canada's first No Frills store, in Toronto, especially liked the prices for produce. (CBC/CBLT News)

In March 1978, the Loblaws grocery chain introduced a lower-priced house brand of pantry staples called No Name. Several months later, there's an entire store featuring No Name products and other brands at low, warehouse-type prices.

The store is called No Frills, and for good reason: the prices are low because the store saves on labour costs by having no bakery, no butcher, and no free bags.

There's also no frozen food and no air conditioning, as reporter Michael Vaughan reports for CBC's The National on July 9, 1978 — four days after the store opened.

New concept for Canadian grocery sales 

A man hauls his own groceries in boxes at Canada's first No Frills store on July 5, 1978. (CBC/CBLT News)

Company president Dave Nichol, a Harvard Business grad who picked up the concept in Europe, is there to greet customers and hear their impressions of the store. The bright yellow colour scheme is off-putting, according to one irate shopper who says her neighbours are circulating a petition to change it.

The requirement to pack one's own bags (and pay three cents each for No Frills bags) is also unpopular with another customer. 

But with prices 10 per cent lower than other stores, its long lineups show that the store is has found its niche. If it catches on, Loblaws will open more.

Forty years later, there are more than 250 No Frills stores in Canada.