Inflation causing price pains for Edmonton's small grocers and their customers

·2 min read
Nunu Deselgne in her store Habesha African Market on Friday. Inflation is driving up prices of food items she sells. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)
Nunu Deselgne in her store Habesha African Market on Friday. Inflation is driving up prices of food items she sells. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)

Inflation pressures have forced Nunu Deselgne to raise prices on every item in her Edmonton grocery store, Habesha African Market, with two exceptions: eggs and milk.

"Those are a necessity for people," Deselgne told CBC's Edmonton AM on Thursday.  "So we're taking a hit on those."

Her store, at 10418 107th Ave., is in one of the city's lower-income neighbourhoods in central Edmonton.

With prices increasing with almost every new shipment that arrives, Deselgne isn't sure how long she can keep swallowing her costs.

Deselgne is not alone. Grocers in Edmonton are having to raise prices on the foods they sell as inflation, combined with labour shortage and supply-chain issues, have driven costs through the roof.

On Wednesday, Statistics Canada reported that Canada's inflation rate rose to 7.7 per cent in May, the highest in 40 years. Grocery prices have increased 9.7 per cent over the past year.

"It's just constantly going higher and higher by week," Deselgne said. "It's quite stressful."

The Spice Centre, at 9280 34th Ave. in Mill Woods, has also had to increase prices, partly due to increasing shipping costs.

"We have been in business for over 30 years now and we have not seen price changes like these, ever," Spice Centre co-owner and manager Aman Bindra said.

Prices are up, but profits are down, he said.

The store caters to a significant South Asian and Caribbean population and orders a lot of its products from India and the Caribbean.

Before the pandemic, a container that cost Bindra $5,000 and take five to six weeks to arrive is now costing him around $15,000 and not arriving for months.

"All that stuff is adding up to increase the cost of goods here," Bindra said.

Unlike big box stores, small, independent grocery stores work with thin margins, according to Heather Thomson, executive director of the Centre for Cities and Communities at the University of Alberta School of Business.

If suppliers and distributors are jacking up prices, there's not a lot of room for smaller stores to absorb that cost into their bottom line, Thomson said.

And while big chain stores have the advantage of buying power — "When you purchase things in bulk, you tend to get a better deal," Thomson said — independent grocery stores don't have that flexibility.

Thomson said the government needs to step in to curb the dramatic increase in prices for basic necessities.

"We can't sustain the inflation rate at this point as a society," she said. "It's just not workable."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting