Provigo, a member of Canada’s largest retailer, the Loblaw Group, is unveiling a retail concept in Quebec this summer.

The first two stores under the Provigo Le Marché banner are expected to open July 17 in Montreal and July 19 in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Pierre Dandoy, senior vice president operations for Provigo and Loblaws Quebec, said the new concept will feature more fresh products, fast-paced checkouts and a broader range of Quebec and regional products.

The stores also will offer a fresh juice bar and other offerings now found in Loblaws’ upscale flagship in Toronto’s former Maple Leaf Gardens.

A total of seven stores under the new banner — including six existing Loblaws and the brand new Sherbrooke store — are expected to open by the end of the year, Dandoy said.

The new stores “will provide a unique experience in Quebec that will meet the taste and expectations of consumers who are passionate about great food,” he said.

Across the street from Provigo’s new Sherbrooke store, staff at Marché Le Végétarien are bracing for the competition.

Up to the challenge

But Marcel Paré, president of Groupe Epicia, which owns 30 Quebec stores under four banners, is confident his produce-focused store is up to the challenge.

“We had to change everything because we have a new competitor opening right in front of us, and we wanted to be unique,” Paré said.

Inspired by a tour of North American supermarkets last year, he and his team designed and built the fixtures for their new produce department, which takes up a third of the Sherbrooke store.

The result is a 28-foot-long wall of fruits and vegetables with undulating dividers that has packaged produce above and below the bulk items.

In the section’s large free-standing counters, called clouds, fresh produce is separated by clear dividers with bags around the edge and bulk produce carefully arranged by hand.

“It looks so amazing, you just want to buy everything,” Paré said.

His customers, many 40-something professionals, seem to agree.

Though he would have been happy with a 5% increase, Pare said sales have risen 15% since the store reopened late last year.

“We welcome the competition because customers will see the difference between our concept and Loblaws,” he said.

“You have to keep your store looking like opening day, and we try to do that every day.”