It’s been a rough couple of months for grocery stores in Alberta.
The provincial government shuttered several stores last year due to low commodity prices and a lack of inventory.
This year, the province decided to close two stores in Edmonton and one in Calgary, as well as two in Fort McMurray.
“We’ve had a very challenging couple of years, particularly for the grocery business,” said Jeff Kagan, the president of the Canadian Association of Grocery Stores.
“It’s a very, very difficult time for a lot of people.”
Kagan says the closures will make it more difficult for Alberta’s large grocery companies to attract shoppers.
“The grocery industry in Alberta, as it relates to food, is facing the biggest economic downturn in a decade,” said Kagan.
“They’ve lost almost a quarter of their market share, they’ve lost an average of $40 per store.”
A large portion of those stores are in the Alberta city of Calgary, where grocery prices have been the lowest in the country.
“With the lowest prices, it’s difficult for a grocer to compete,” said Craig McLeod, the city’s general manager of retail operations.
“That’s the big thing.
You can’t just get the product and be satisfied.”
One Calgary store closed last summer and two others were forced to close in 2017.
Many people still rely on these stores to get groceries.
“These stores, they’re not just stores, those are the customers that go in and shop, and they come back,” said John Gillett, the owner of the nearby K-Mart.
“So you’re not getting as much as you would if you just went to the store and bought groceries.”
The Alberta government says it’s closing more than 1,000 grocery stores, but some grocery stores still open in other provinces.
The province also announced last month that it’s opening two more grocery stores to help fill the gap in the economy.
The closures are just one of many problems facing Alberta’s grocery industry.
Many of these closures are due to the province’s aging population.
The Canadian Bureau of Statistics predicts the population of Alberta will grow by more than 12 per cent by 2030, according to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
Despite these challenges, Kagan is optimistic.
“I think we’re going to have a very positive economic impact on Alberta, and I think it’s going to create more jobs, more income and more opportunity for people in the province,” he said.
“This is going to make the economy go even better.”