Loblaw to pull plug on ‘endless aisles’ e-marketplace

Extension of PC Express e-commerce platform offers thousands of items—beyond typical food and drug store offerings—directly to consumers via third-party sellers.
Loblaws store banner-closeup_Shutterstock
Items sold through Loblaw's Marketplace include baby, toy, housewares, kitchen, pet care, furniture and home decor, among other categories. / Photo: Shutterstock

Loblaw Cos. plans to shut down its third-party online marketplace, launched three-and-a-half years ago to provide an “endless aisles” e-commerce offering.

Canada’s largest food and drug retailer confirmed the decision on Wednesday in an email to Winsight Grocery Business after published reports said the company informed third-party sellers of the move in a memo last week.

Dubbed “Marketplace,” the site currently bears a homepage banner saying that orders will no longer be accepted as of June 14 and returns can be made until July 31.

Brampton, Ontario-based Loblaw introduced Marketplace in November 2019 as an extension of its PC Express online grocery service that sells products well beyond typical supermarket items. The company noted that the platform brought access to brands and items that its stores haven’t historically stocked, such as more products in the baby, toy, home, kitchen and pet categories. At launch, retail banners participating in Marketplace included Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore and Atlantic Superstore.

“We launched the online marketplace in late 2019 to understand how complementary products could extend our aisles online,” Loblaw said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “While we’ve learned a lot about what customers are looking for in their online assortment, given the rapid change in e-commerce over the past three years, we’re winding down our marketplace and focusing on our core grocery and pharmacy online shopping experiences.”

Loblaw online marketplace-website

Loblaw launched Marketplace in 2019 as a way to offer customers a complementary online shopping experience. / Image courtesy of Loblaw Cos.

The Marketplace integrated seamlessly with PC Express via technology from PFTech, a Las Vegas-based marketplace software developer that Loblaw acquired earlier in 2019. Products purchased through the PC Express marketplace are available for home delivery or in-store pickup. Customers making purchases also can earn PC Optimum rewards points, and items can be returned at brick-and-mortar stores.

Loblaw had billed Marketplace as “the largest range of products available to Loblaw customers to date,” with new categories such as nursery furniture and décor, housewares, home furniture and living room décor, as well as brands like Umbra and Lennox Furniture. In January 2022, Loblaw partnered with specialty sleep retailer Sleep Country to launch an online store for the brand on the Marketplace site, offering mattresses, box springs and frames plus mattresses-in-a-box, lifestyle bases and bedding.

“Millions of Canadians visit our stores and online shops weekly, looking for inspiration and convenient access to food, home and health products. Through this expanded PC Express offering, we will provide them with a curated, edited assortment of products that complement their current shop, from some exciting new vendors,” Garry Senecal, former chief customer officer at Loblaw, stated when Marketplace was launched in late 2019. “This is another example of how we can offer even more to customers, simplifying their searching and shopping experience for many of their everyday needs.”

Big grocery players in the United States have had the same idea. The Kroger Co., Albertsons Cos. and Ahold Delhaize USA have launched e-marketplaces—selling tens of thousands of items—via Boston-based Mirakl, which specializes in the creation of B2C and B2B digital marketplaces that allow third-party vendors to sell directly to customers.

And in 2021, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) rolled out a Mirakl-powered B2B digital wholesale marketplace called Community Marketplace by UNFI. The site enables thousands of emerging products not currently available at UNFI distribution centers to be ordered on its Easy Options website and shipped directly to retail customers nationwide. Mirakl described the solution as North America’s first online wholesale food marketplace.



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