Great interview – Michel Rochette, president of the Retail Council of Canada, Quebec | The major challenges of 2024 for retail

Despite inflation which fueled the rise in the price of the grocery basket and the increase in interest rates, which increased the financial burden on many homeowners, consumers did not reduce their spending in 2023. “Economic uncertainty could have an impact on consumers during the first quarter of 2024, but the situation should return to normal thereafter,” anticipates Michel Rochette, president of the Canadian Retail Council (CCCD) for the Quebec.

The data collected from the 50,000 Quebec businesses that are members of the CCCD for the past year do not show a slowdown in consumer activity in 2023, despite a context made more difficult by high inflation. and rising interest rates.

Yes, some consumer behaviors have changed to take into account the new, more volatile environment, with 60% – a record – of consumers taking advantage of discounts much more in 2023 and doing more research to find deals on the market .

“This is seen in all consumer sectors. People are no longer waiting for Boxing Day to take advantage of deals, as Black Friday in November has become more important to many consumers. We want to take advantage of deals when they come.

Due to economic uncertainty, traders were looking ahead to 2023 with more fear, but ultimately, there was more fear than harm.

Michael Rochette

The CCCD is a national organization that brings together almost everyone in the country’s retail industry; the Quebec section alone has more than 50,000 businesses in all sectors of activity.

“The food sector remains one of the big players, Metro is the largest private employer in Quebec and we go to the grocery store every week,” underlines the president of the CCCD.

According to Michel Rochette, the economic slowdown expected for the first quarter of 2024 should result in a reduction in spending by Quebec consumers, who face a higher debt rate than in the United States and who will have to deal with renewals mortgages.

If the labor shortage was the main concern of retailers in 2023, the problem will remain unresolved in 2024, when we observe needs in all sectors linked to retail trade, whether in supply, storage, monitoring, inspection or transportation.

“Just in logistics, Quebec transport companies are short of 5,000 truckers. The supply chain has become an issue during the pandemic, but it remains a problem for the retail sector. The popularity of online commerce has put pressure on the trucking industry,” notes the president of the CCCD.

Shoplifting on the rise

After the labor shortage, the big issue that most concerns players in the retail industry in 2024 is the sharp increase in shoplifting and fraud, and cybersecurity in general.

Over the past four years, the retail industry has recorded a 300% increase in shoplifting across all product categories – food, clothing, shoes, electronics… Theft that translate into billions of dollars in losses and price increases for consumers.

“This is an issue that is unfortunately not considered by the police forces. They rarely intervene when an arrest is made because legal appeals rarely go through to the end. You have to have stolen a lot and often to get sued.

“But here, we see networks of thieves using used product resale sites like Kijiji to sell new and packaged products, it has become organized. Loblaw decided to stop selling wine in certain stores in Ontario because they were being robbed too much,” explains Michel Rochette.

The labor shortage is not unrelated to this increase in shoplifting, since there are fewer employees monitoring the aisles or at the self-checkouts, which may also have contributed to the increase in the number of thefts.

“We work with the police authorities. We met with people from the City of Montreal Police Department and we are looking for better collaboration. We organized a blitz with law enforcement last September across Canada which resulted in 498 arrests in one week. We are going to repeat the experience,” explains Michel Rochette.

The retail industry also wants to take greater advantage this year of advances made by artificial intelligence (AI) to strengthen the supply chain.

“AI plays a big role in the industry, it makes it possible to better predict consumption trends and better organize the supply chain. We are well equipped in Montreal with Scale AI and IVADO who are working to make the systems more efficient,” observes the president.


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