Diaper wars: Retailers battle to be No. 1 when it comes to No. 2

The battle to “win with mom” boils down to three things at Loblaws: Diapers, formulas and wipes.

When Michael Lovsin, senior vice-president of health and wellness at Loblaw Companies Ltd., thinks back to the days when his children were just infants, one memory stands out: the cost. “Diapers are very expensive. Formula is expensive. Wipes not so much but you use a lot—like crazy. I have two daughters and I used a lot of wipes in my lifetime.”

That awareness has fuelled a new corporate strategy, the Baby & You program, which launched this year at Loblaw’s conventional and discount stores across the country, including Zehrs, Fortinos and Real Canadian Superstore. Every week, in its fliers and through social media, the company promotes its “price match guarantee” on three key products: diapers, formula and wipes. “Those are,” says Lovsin, “the things that really drive the cost in early years.”

Loblaw promises to charge the same amount as its competitors’ lowest advertised price on any brands—and if the stores don’t have the same size of product, they will match the cost on a per-unit basis. “We get down to price per millilitre, price per diaper, price per wipe,” Lovsin says. It is “a unifying strategy to win with mom. We do all that work.” And if the discount helps lure in shoppers and drive other purchases in the grocery store, then all the better.

The attempt to “win with mom” (and dad) using deals and convenience is an age-old retail trend that has taken on even more importance in the Internet era. Amazon.ca recently launched an e-commerce baby store and Wal-Mart Canada, which sells many infant items online, now offers free shipping on diapers. Loblaw is trying to leverage the Internet too. It doesn’t have an online store, but it partnered with the website Mom Central Canada and several mommy bloggers to promote the Baby & You program, which also has its own Facebook page.

Whether Loblaw has entered the diaper war a little late remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: it’s a crowded, competitive market. And it’s about to get tougher when Target arrives in Canada next April. The American retailer has long excelled at offering family-friendly prices and products—in-store and online.