Walmart grocery impact expected to be big

Retail analysts are expecting a big impact on the P.E.I. grocery market with Walmart offering a full range of food, including fresh meat and produce.

Walmart Supercentres open in Charlottetown and Summerside

Walmart in Summerside and Charlottetown now offer a full grocery section with meat, dairy and produce. 1:54

Retail analysts are expecting a big impact on the P.E.I. grocery market with Walmart offering a full range of food, including fresh meat and produce.

New grocery sections opened in Charlottetown and Summerside Thursday, and staff at existing stores are being told it won’t be business as usual.

"I guess it's cutting a lot of hours down, because a lot of business is going to go to Walmart,” said Atlantic Superstore employee Gillian Gauthier.

Tom Barlow, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, said Walmart has the potential to take a large share of the P.E.I. grocery market.

“It is going to put more pressure on the grocers that are already there,” said Barlow.

Walmart will focus on price, he said, and that is a message that is likely to sell well on P.E.I.

"That's what's made Walmart so successful," said Barlow.

"They went into those marketplaces which might have been a little more economically depressed, and were able to, because of their size and scale, buy better and offer lower prices to consumers, which resonated."

Focused on price

Barlow said to survive other grocers may have to focus their marketing on what makes them different than Walmart. In an email to CBC News, Sobeys seemed to be doing just that.

“Our commitment to local surpasses any other major retailer and we know that's important to our customers. We source more of our food in PEI and Atlantic Canada than any major retailer," said spokeswoman Shauna Selig.

And, as Barlow predicted, Charlottetown Walmart manager Will Eisener is focused on price.

"We'll just do our best to commit to low prices every day,” said Eisener.

"Our commitment is to be the best price in town, and we'll continue to strive towards that. And if there's a competitor beating us, we'll ad match that product."

Atlantic Superstore representatives have not yet responded to questions from CBC News.

Shoppers in Charlottetown told CBC News they are glad to have options.

"I'll check the flyers. I don't mind moving around," said Robbie Arsenault.

"It's about price," said Liz Gaudet.

"People are trying to raise their families and survive this economy. And I think that bottom dollar is where it's going to be."

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