Sobeys unveils plans for home delivery, automated DC in Montreal

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

STELLARTON, NS – The parent of Sobeys and IGA, Empire Company, has unveiled plans for an e-commerce rollout that includes building a second automated fulfillment centre, this time in the Montreal area.

Voilà by Sobeys and Voilà par IGA will be the name and brand for its online grocery home delivery service for the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa and major cities in the Province of Quebec.

Voilà by Sobeys will offer up to 39,000 products, including fresh produce. It will be managed by Ocado Group plc’s online grocery engine.

The company is already working with UK-based Ocado to build the first fulfillment centre, in Vaughan, Ontario, that will serve the home delivery model. Ocado’s latest generation, state-of-the-art automated warehouse is designed specifically for grocery e-commerce. It’s based around a propriety robotics AS/RS grid system.

The e-commerce offering includes front-end website functionality, supported by proprietary ‘web shop’ and mobile grocery ordering applications, as well as last-mile routing management technology to optimize delivery truck efficiency, customer service excellence and punctuality.

The Vaughan DC is projected to be completed in the spring of 2020. The latest estimate of construction and design costs for the DC is approximately $95 million, up $25 million from previous estimates. The design has evolved, the company says, and significant industry-wide cost inflation in construction materials, particularly steel, has led to cost increases.

“We are building the most advanced e-commerce infrastructure in Canada”, said Sarah Joyce, SVP, e-commerce for Empire.

“An online grocery home delivery experience like Voilà by Sobeys does not yet exist in Canada. While most players in the industry are focused on store pick models to fulfil their online orders, we are building automated warehouses specifically designed for home delivery based on a highly successful model from the U.K.”

Empire plans to launch Voilà par IGA, its second customer fulfillment centre (CFC) in the Montreal district of Ponte-Claire, in 2021. Empire will partner with Crombie REIT to develop the second CFC in Montreal. Empire will lease the location from Crombie and Crombie will build the site to Empire’s specifications.

The cost of the CFC in Montreal to be consistent with, or less than Vaughan, as the Toronto development will enable efficiencies in Montreal. The majority of the Montreal investment will be incurred by Crombie. In addition, software, licensing and systems integration costs incurred during fiscal 2019 apply to all CFC’s.

For more than 20 years, has operated a successful online pick up and home delivery grocery service in Quebec. will continue to serve customers in Quebec until Voilà par IGA launches in 2021 and customers will experience the world-class service and assortment of the Ocado based platform.

Following the 2021 launch, will continue to serve customers who are outside of the delivery area.

Empire projects that about 1,500 jobs will be created in the GTA and Montreal as a result of its e-commerce expansion.

“We’re thrilled to build on our solid legacy of e-commerce in Quebec,” explained Joyce.

“When selecting future locations we consider size of market, population density and potential for growth. Launching in Quebec is another exciting step forward to bringing the world’s most innovative e-commerce solution to Canadians.”