Metro ad campaign focuses on service
Today's consumer needs to save time, not more products

Western consumers are saturated with products. Go into a Montreal shopping center and you can buy almost anything, from soup to nuts in pretty well any shape, size or colour. In an affluent society like ours, one thing people increasingly need, is the time to enjoy these luxuries. Companies that can help today's consumer save time are increasingly getting Canadian's ears.

"People are under stress from adjusting to the time pressures in daily life," said Gilles Caron, vice-president (marketing) at Metro Inc. "More than 70 per cent of women are now in the workforce, and have as much or even more time pressure than men do."

Time pressure is of course nothing new. In a famous article about the onset of television, the New York Times once wrote in the early 1950s that it would be unlikely to succeed as a medium, because people would never find the time to watch.

But people did find the time, and on average, the tube consistently grabs in excess of 20 hours a week of Canadian's time. But television is not the only culprit. Work hours have been creeping up over the last decade, and the Internet is also vying for people's attention.

To accommodate all these time demands in their busy lives, Canadians are looking to trim extra minutes wherever they can. Food preparation has been a big casualty. Although they tend to eat together as a family more than Americans, and they enjoy meal preparation, Canadians are increasingly favoring solutions minimize their time in the kitchen such as frozen foods and ready-to-eat meals.

Less time in the kitchen means that cooking skills are not what they once were. "More than half of Canadians between the ages of 36 and 49 do not know how to cook a simple roast beef," said Caron who witnessed first hand this culinary deficiency. Mentioning pork roast as a possible meal after being invited to visit his 24-year old daughter's new apartment, Caron was told she would buy the roast, but he would have to cook it himself.

At the same time, Canadians continue to expect their meals to be tasty and healthy and the 'cocooning," phenomena, where older Canadians who are spending more time at home, is in theory, creating new opportunities for grocers who may be able to grab some market share from restaurants.

In its newest ad campaign, Metro, which is locked in a heated battle with competitor Loblaws here in Quebec, attempts to capitalize on its natural advantages in saving consumers time, and providing the additional service Quebecers insist on.

For one Metro has a strong tradition of small, locally run independent operators and franchisees, who are knowledgeable and close to the consumer. The company's slogan "Grocers by Profession" has huge name recognition and 85% of Quebecers correctly identify it as belonging to Metro. Smaller stores mean customers can get in and out fast, which is especially useful for those who want to pick up just a few items.

The tradition of going to the grocer for food advice is strong among Quebecers who tend to favor smaller stores where they can get better service and it is easier to get the grocer's attention. In fact with only about a quarter of Canada's population, the province has 35 per cent of its grocery stores. To build on this tradition, Metro runs a school to train its employees to assist consumers in choosing foods and to instruct them how to quickly prepare healthy balanced meals.

The ad campaign is the first produced by Cossette Communication-Marketing since the agency picked up the $5 million Metro account earlier this year. It includes three ads, produced in French and dubbed into English. All at one point show a consumer pushing a grocery cart covered by a table top, on which dinner is set up and ready to be served, illustrating the speed at which food can get from the market to the consumer's table top.

In spite of heavy competition in Quebec's grocery market, Metro continues to perform well, having registered in its third quarter of this year, its 39th consecutive quarter of earnings growth. Because of its small size and heavy local competition, Metro stock continues to trade a far lower earnings multiple than comparable North American grocers. It has considerable upside due to continuing consolidation in the field according to a report by Dlouhy Investments.

But in order to continue performing at this level against the ominous competition of the Loblaws colossus, Metro is going have be innovative and quick on its feet. One solution is to continue to come up with ways to save its shoppers time.


Photo caption: The company's slogan "Grocers by Profession" has huge name recognition and 85% of Quebecers correctly identify it as belonging to Metro.

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