Why Sobeys needed to dump Air Miles reward program


Sobeys not too long ago determined to dump Air Miles and begin its personal loyalty program. Empire Co. Ltd., Sobeys’ mum or dad firm, is becoming a member of the Financial institution of Nova Scotia and Cineplex as co-owners of the Scene+ program.

This transfer by Sobeys is not any coincidence. As we brace for greater meals costs and deal with a post-COVID-19 workforce nonetheless making an attempt to determine issues out, loyalty will in all probability be the subsequent main battleground for Canadian grocers.

The Scene+ program at Sobeys will begin in Atlantic Canada in a couple of months, and the cross-country rollout will probably be finished by early 2023. The partnership with Air Miles will formally finish quickly after.

Since March 2020, 26 per cent of Canadians have switched the first location the place they often purchase meals, based on a current ballot by Angus Reid.

Having extra folks working from house has triggered behavioural adjustments in grocery buying. And with meals inflation at 10 per cent, customers are both buying and selling down or altering buying habits virtually weekly. With greater meals costs, every part is negotiable.

The place folks purchase meals and what they purchase is continually altering. So protecting clients engaged with manufacturers and shops goes to be difficult over the subsequent a number of years. That’s coupled with the truth that youthful persons are hardly ever devoted to manufacturers or shops.

Which means encouraging client loyalty is an even bigger situation now than ever.

Sobeys’ fast rollout will serve the corporate properly because it wanted a greater loyalty program.

PC Optimum is by far the preferred program in Canada associated to meals gross sales. Greater than 63 per cent of Canadians use the Loblaws program, adopted by Air Miles at solely 18.3 per cent, based on a current survey by Caddle. The present Scene program is sixth on the checklist: simply 1.9 per cent of Canadians use it.

The hole between PC Optimum and the remainder of the sector is gigantic.


However the truth that Metro, one in every of Sobeys’ principal rivals in Japanese Canada, additionally had a take care of Air Miles was turning into more and more awkward in an period during which getting clients again, and again once more, is difficult. The market simply isn’t the identical because it was in 2020 when the pandemic began. Customers are economically challenged in some ways, and a robust loyalty program can permit Sobeys to empathize with a struggling public.

With greater costs and an acute deal with personal labels, Loblaws and its PC Optimum program clearly have a bonus that Sobeys wished to deal with. Whereas Sobeys is getting its private-label act collectively, it additionally wants a program to push its manufacturers like Compliments and Panache. Loblaws’ personal labelling technique, together with President’s Alternative and No Identify, left the competitors within the mud.

Solely time will inform what this system will seem like and the way it will encourage customers to buy extra usually at Sobeys. However seeing Empire/Sobeys, a Nova Scotia-based firm, associate with the Financial institution of Nova Scotia was something however a shock.

Even when Scene doesn’t have the clout of PC Optimum, it has the potential to do properly. Scene has 10 million members, however the model’s consciousness is lacklustre and few use the factors. Sobeys’ community might change that. .

For Sobeys, working with Air Miles was like rowing towards the present. Sobeys was possible simply ready for its contractual obligations to finish so it might undertake a program it could possibly higher management.


Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in meals distribution and coverage at Dalhousie College. © Troy Media


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