THUNDER BAY – Analysis – The growth of the digital economy means adapting. This week, Amazon.ca launched two new stores – the Grocery and Auto. These two new online stores will provide yet more competition to local companies. The digital market opens up Thunder Bay, and communities across Northwestern Ontario with more choice, and in some cases the opportunity for lower prices. The move opens up an easy portal for consumers to find massive numbers of products from the comfort of their smart phones, iPads, or desktops.
Digital Marketplace Increased Selection
With the addition of these new stores, Amazon.ca has now launched 14 new categories in 2013. “Amazon.ca dramatically increased our selection this year, and we are pleased to now bring the Auto and Grocery stores to our customers,” stated Alexandre Gagnon, country manager for Amazon.ca. “We’re working to deliver an unmatched selection of everyday essentials and must-have products. With just a few clicks, customers can discover millions of items, take advantage of free shipping or Free Two Day Shipping with Amazon Prime, and have items delivered to their doorstep.”
For northern communities like Attawapiskat, Fort Severn, Sandy Lake, and Marten Falls, prices for many grocery items are very high. Many of the residents of northern communities do their shopping when in Sioux Lookout, Kenora, Dryden, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay when they are out of the community.
In Thunder Bay, residents seeking greater selection and lower prices often shop online, or make shopping pilgrimages to Duluth.
Part of the solution should be a greater move in Thunder Bay to attract some of the big box stores to our city. Stores like Costco, Ikea, Lowes and Menards for example would serve as an impetus to keep the travelling residents home.
The nearest Costco to Thunder Bay is a 1000 kilometre round trip from the city. Sources tell NNL that the City of Thunder Bay seems completely stalled when it comes to generating the conditions in our city that would lead to opening a Costco in our city. Perhaps the next civic election will see the current stand of the City of Thunder Bay change?
Online there are over two hundred plus varieties of single serve k-cup coffee. Consumers can choose from a variety not easily found in the local market.
Should Thunder Bay Fear Big Box Stores?
Shoppers in our city do not fear shopping at the major chains in the United States. Nor are consumers balking when it comes to shopping online. Some think that price is the only reason people shop. That isn’t totally accurate. Dollarama in Thunder Bay sells a chocolate bar for 69 cents. Would you drive across town to save money on a chocolate bar?
Even the local grocery market shouldn’t be fearing the growth of big box stores in our community. They are already in full competition and we have seen Renco Foods expand into Centennial Square, along with Target and more Walmart locations. Yet the parking lot at Maltese Grocery is still full!
On Bay Street in Thunder Bay, Bay Meats has expanded – you can find their beef jerky and other products in local Shopper’s Drug Mart stores.
The impact of the digital economy is already here in Thunder Bay. All it takes is a trip to Pigeon River to see how full the Ryden’s Border Store’s warehouse is with packages destined for Thunder Bay homes, to realize that fact.
At the Thunder Bay District Municipal League, Councillor at Large Rebecca Johnson expressed concern over a motion that passed which would direct the TBDML to seek greater local input in the local newspaper. Johnson suggests that it is not the business of local government to tell business what to do. However that is exactly the reason that Thunder Bay remains without a Costco in our city.
The City of Thunder Bay is the major roadblock in this instance. The City is in effect telling a private business that wants to locate in our city if they can, or can not do so.
Digital Solutions for Local Business
The next part of the solution for local companies would be found in seizing the ‘digital’ marketplace.
Thunder Bay entrepreneurs are already moving quickly to adapt. The number of new small companies opening in our city is growing. The number of people working in these companies is growing. Without evidence to counter it, those companies are likely using the Internet to do business. Thunder Bay is a digital city. Residents, consumers and growing numbers of businesses have made the transition to the future. The Ontario Government, and the federal government are transitioning to the next stages to support the digital economy.
Moving your business into the adoption of the new digital economy is a step to ensure you will succeed.
Think of it this way, its already happening. You can either join in, or you can be left behind. Harsh? Maybe, but perhaps if the region were better prepared in the past we would not have struggled so much over the past decade.
Embracing the future is key to success.
Will the digital economy hurt local business?
Chances are the digital economy is already impacting your business. Some of your customers are already shopping online. They are price checking while shopping with their smartphones while they are already in local shops.
Embracing the digital economy means not only will local businesses be more competitive, but local businesses can start capturing sales and opportunities from outside the traditional market.
Sometimes what is missing is the understanding that adding value, services and the personal touch in addition to competitive pricing is all it takes for a local business, both online and in person to become a business superstar.
Will the Amazon.ca Grocery Store change the market?
The Amazon.ca Grocery store (www.amazon.ca/grocery) features a wide variety of top brands where customers can discover specialty food items that may not be available at every grocery store.
With more than 15,000 dry food products available, Amazon.ca customers will find:
- Key Ingredients for Holiday Baking: With the busy holiday season upon us, customers can find ingredients they need for holiday recipes, including Unico cooking oils; spices and seasonings from brands like Kurundu, McCormick and GD Organic; baking mixes from Namaste Foods, Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines; and baking chocolate from Ghiradelli.
- Coffee and Tea to Keep You Warm and Toasty this Winter: Customers will now find coffee and coffee pods from top brands including Keurig, Tassimo, Van Houtte, Lavazza, Ethical Bean and Folgers, as well as a wide selection of teas from Uncle Lee, Twinings, Unilever, Traditional Medicinals, and Tazo.
- Drinks to Quench Your Thirst: For customers who like variety, Amazon.ca offers plenty of beverage options – from soft drinks, soy milk, juices, energy drinks and more – including Mio and Crystal Light drink mixes, Ocean Spray juices, C2o Coconut Water, Red Bull energy drinks, Soyganic and Vitasoy soy drinks, Fiji water, and Pepsi products.
- Local Favourites: Amazon.ca features a number of popular food brands such as Dare cookies, crackers and fruit snacks; Oasis juices; Sun-Rype fruit bars; Old Dutch Foods; Ocean’s canned seafood and a variety of Canadian maple products.
- Pantry Necessities: Why bother visiting a grocery store when Amazon.ca has many items customers need to stock their pantries, like Skippy peanut butter, Campbell’s Soup, Catelli pastas, Kellogg cereals, Hidden Valley salad dressings, and Uncle Ben’s rice.
- Healthy Options for Snackers: The new store has plenty of healthy snack choices, including Pop Chips, Clif and Kind bars, Pistachio nuts, Kashi Chewy Granola Bars and popcorn from a variety of brands.
- Baby’s Favourite Foods: Now parents can find a variety of baby foods and have them delivered to their doorstep — from Baby Gourmet and Love Child Organics food pouches, Danone cereal, Earth’s Best baby food, Enfamil and Similac formula and Gerber baby snacks.
- Flowers for Someone Special: With the click of a button, customers can shop for fresh flower baskets and bouquets and have flowers delivered to their sweetheart, friend, co-worker or family member.
A majority of items available in the Grocery store are eligible for free shipping or Free Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime, so customers can stock their pantry or order a special ingredient for an elaborate dinner party recipe and have food items sent straight to their home.
Pricing for many items appears either similar to local shops, or higher in some cases, $10 for a box of Special K cereal seems a bit out of touch with marketplace realities.
There are many products available online that are not normally stocked locally. Take coffee as an example. The popular k-cup has 200 items stocked on the Amazon.ca store. Prices are variable, from very competitive to the local market
Amazon.ca Customers Will Find Over 200,000 Automotive Items for Cars, Trucks, RVs, Motorcycles and Power Sport Vehicles
The Amazon.ca Auto store (www.amazon.ca/auto) features one of Canada’s largest selections of automotive items from key brands such as Camco, Curt, OTC, Schumacher, Battery Tender, and more. Auto enthusiasts and everyday motorists will find a vast selection of automotive products for any type of vehicle.
The new store offers everything from car care products, jump starters, seat covers, windshield wiper blades and a wide variety of automotive tools and equipment. As the winter months approach, customers will also find an extensive selection of winter automotive maintenance products to help ensure vehicles stay running through even the coldest of winters.
By taking advantage of free shipping on eligible orders or Free Two-Day Shipping via Amazon Prime, customers also don’t have to worry about braving icy roads this winter or getting heavy, bulky automotive accessories and tools home.
In addition to finding a broad selection of items on Amazon.ca, customers can also find helpful information and shopping tools to help make better purchasing decisions, including editorial reviews, personalized product recommendations, customer reviews and best sellers. Shoppers can also narrow or expand search results and filter by category, average customer review, price range and brand.
What does it all mean?
The digital economy is here now. There is still time to get aboard. The opportunities are still huge.
It all depends on what you and what the City wants to see for the future. Changing Thunder Bay from a place where residents head out of town to shop to a place where people from across the district come to shop will help build the local economy. It would boost tourism, and generate the interest that would support the goals of City Administration.
Building up the retail market would likely fit well with plans for a new multiplex. People coming to the city to shop could also be some of the people who would also come here for sporting events. Having Thunder Bay learn from communities like Kamloops British Columbia which has become British Columbia’s sports tournament hub would generate increased opportunity in Thunder Bay.
It all comes down to having a real vision for the future.