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Shopping

In Canada you can buy groceries and household goods at major grocery chains and independent grocers. In urban centers you may be able to purchase goods directly from the butcher, baker, etc. but in smaller urban centers, suburban, and rural communities, this is less common.

Generally, goods offered at chain stores are cheaper than those offered at smaller, local, independent businesses.

Clothing and accessories can be purchased at some grocery stores, at department stores, at smaller local businesses, and at malls.

Household goods (small appliances, linens, kitchen accessories, etc.) are available to purchase mainly at department stores and grocery stores.

You can purchase hardware and home improvement goods in Canada in limited quantities at grocery stores and department stores. Hardware stores offer the largest selection of such goods.

Baby products can be purchased at all grocery and department stores, category-specific chains (e.g. Babys R Us) and smaller local businesses.

You can purchase pet products in Canada at all grocery and department stores, as well as category-specific chains (e.g. Petcetera, Pets Unlimited) and smaller local businesses.

Garden products, flowers and greenery are available to purchase through grocery stores, department stores, florists and nurseries.

At almost all stores in Canada, sales and coupon offers are common. Large sales occur seasonally, with the biggest reductions available on Boxing Day (December 26th).

Sales Tax

Like most countries, Canada adds sales taxes to most goods and services you buy.

GST (Goods and Services Tax) is a federal Government of Canada tax added to the price of most goods and services in Canada. Generally, the list price of goods and services in Canada does not include GST. As of this writing, GST is 5%.

PST (Provincial Sales Tax) is added to GST in most provinces, and ranges from 7-10%. Alberta, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon do not have PST. Generally, the list price of goods and services in Canada does not include PST.

HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) is a combination of GST and PST added to goods and services in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador. HST is 13-15%. Generally, the list price of goods and services in Canada does not include HST.

Grocery Shopping

Major grocery store chains in Canada include Atlantic Superstore, SuperValu, Dominion, Loblaws, No Frills, SaveEasy, Valu-Mart, Fortino, Freshmart, Save-on-Foods, Sobeys, Metro, Supermarches GP, Safeway, Foodland, IGA, Price Chopper, and Whole Foods.

Most grocery stores in Canada, besides selling a full range of fresh, dry, and frozen foods, also sell household goods, stationery, clothing, toiletries and cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and electronics.

According to Statistics Canada, average grocery costs in 2012 are as follows: $7/kg chicken, $17/kg sirloin steak, $11/kg stewing beef, $10/kg pork chops, $2.40/l for milk, $4.40/500g butter, $3/doz eggs, $2.70/675g bread, $5/2.5 kg flour, $3.50/1kg apples, $1.70/1kg bananas, $2.90/1kg oranges, $5.70/4.5kg potatoes, $1.90/1kg carrots, $8/1kg mushrooms, $1.50/1kg onions, $0.85/130ml baby food, $6/300g coffee, $2.60/4 rolls of toilet paper, $4/300ml shampoo, $2.40/100ml toothpaste, and $4.40/60g deodorant.

Grocery stores in Canada issue weekly or bi-weekly sales flyers online or via mail, indicating special reduced prices for products for a limited period. Many stores offer discounts of up to 50-80% on food prices, and buy one/two get one/two free incentives on specific products.

Various agricultural boards, such as the Diary Board of Canada, limit productions levels, regulate competition, and lobby for stable, predictable food prices in Canada.

Organics and health foods are available in most major grocery stores, and at dedicated outlets such as Whole Foods and other small businesses. 

In most urban centers grocery stores are accessible by public transportation or by foot. In smaller urban centers or suburban or rural communities, almost all Canadians access grocery stores by car. Parking at grocery stores is free of charge.

Most grocery stores offer complimentary plastic or paper bags, but encourage the use of reusable bags or bins. In some jurisdictions in Canada, consumers pay $0.05-$.20 per plastic or paper bag. In other jurisdictions the use of plastic grocery bags is banned entirely. Most grocery stores do not provide cardboard boxes for consumers to transport groceries with due to health and safety regulations.

Many grocery stores in Canada offer incentive programs, such as points programs, Airmiles, Aeroplan, and company specific credit card programs.

Malls

Most Canadian cities have one or more malls. The largest malls in Canada the West Edmonton Mall (Alberta) with 800+ stores, the Metropolis (British Columbia) with 450+ stores, and Square One and the Eaton Center (Ontario) with 360+ stores each.

You can also find a heavy concentration of retail outlets in business parks and outlet centers.

Department Stores

Major department store chains in Canada include Walmart, Target, Sears, Winners, and the Bay. At major department stores you can purchase anything from clothing to home goods, appliances, footwear, groceries, pet and baby products, books, pharmaceuticals and toiletries, automobile products and accessories, electronics, etc. Most department stores also have fast food restaurants or cafes in house, such as McDonalds at Walmarts.

Upmarket department stores in Canada include Holt Renfrew. At upmarket department stores you can purchase clothing, shoes, perfumes, and accessories. Some upmarket department stores have cafes or restaurants.

Wholesale

Bulk, wholesale, and warehouse stores are also prominent in Canada. National wholesale chain Costco has warehouses throughout the country, while smaller, region-specific wholesalers can also be found in your locality.

Hardware stores

At hardware stores you can purchase lumber, hardware, plumbing and electronics goods, small appliances, pool and garden equipment, paint, roofing, siding, and other construction supplies.

Major hardware store chains across Canada include Lowes, Kent, Canadian Tire, and Home Hardware.

Pharmacies

Besides purchasing pharmaceuticals, you may also purchase over the counter medications, health products, medical equipment, vitamins, food, household goods, cosmetics and toiletry products, pet products, baby products, electronics, books, magazines, bus tickets, lottery tickets, concert tickets, gift cards, and clothing at many pharmacies.

Major pharmacy chains across Canada include Shoppers Drug Mart, PharmaChoice, Lawtons, DRUGStore Pharamacy, Loblaw Pharmacy, Guardian, Pharma Plus, Rexall, Safeway Pharmacy, and Pharmasave.

Gas stations

You can purchase basic groceries, cigarettes, lottery tickets, maps, magazines and books, and automobile products, accessories, and services at gas stations throughout Canada.

By Jess Gerrow, who traded city life in Canada for island life in the Mediterranean two years ago. She is a postgraduate marketing student, blogger, and freelance writer.