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The journey to establishing a grocery store in Canada entails a comprehensive understanding of construction costs, which can vary significantly due to many influences. To embark on this venture fully informed, let’s delve deeper into the nuances of constructing a grocery store in Canada, exploring the elements that drive costs and the regional disparities that shape the financial landscape.

Factors That Shape Construction Costs

Location’s Weight

Location stands as a pivotal factor in cost determination. While promising high customer traffic, Canada’s major urban centers, such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, also come with higher construction costs. This is attributed to elevated property values, increased demand for skilled labor, and the overall higher cost of living.

Dimensions and Design

Your grocery store’s dimensions and architectural intricacies directly impact construction costs. Larger establishments necessitate more materials, a greater workforce, and extended construction timelines. Elaborate designs, although visually appealing, also contribute to heightened expenses.

Material Quality

The selection of construction materials significantly shapes the budget. Opting for high-quality materials might initially increase expenses, but their durability, reduced maintenance, and enhanced energy efficiency can yield long-term savings.

Regulatory Compliance and Permits

The process of securing permits and ensuring adherence to local building codes is both time-consuming and financially demanding. Delays in acquiring permits can extend project timelines and inflate budgets.

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Labor Costs

The cost of labor hinges on location, demand for construction professionals, and project complexity. Skilled workers in specific areas might command higher wages, thereby influencing the project’s financial blueprint.

Site Preparation and Utilities

Site preparation, including clearing and foundation establishment, as well as utility connections like water, electricity, and sewage, involve additional expenditures that should be considered.

Interior Fixtures and Equipment

Outfitting your grocery store’s interior necessitates fixtures ranging from shelving and refrigeration units to lighting systems and checkout counters. These components collectively contribute to the overall financial picture.

Contingency Fund

Unpredictable factors such as unforeseen structural issues or weather-induced delays can arise during construction. Allotting a contingency fund is essential to cater to these unexpected expenses.

inside view of a super market store by BUILD IT

Estimating Construction Costs

A rule of thumb for estimating the cost of erecting a grocery store in Canada falls within the range of $200 to $400 per square foot. This estimate encompasses the entirety of construction, from laying the foundation to the final touches. However, precision necessitates considering the variables discussed above.

For a more accurate estimation

Specify Dimensions

Determine the total square footage for your grocery store, encompassing customer areas and storage.

Local Cost Exploration

Extensively research current construction costs in the specific region or city you intend to build. Collaborate with local contractors and consult construction cost indexes for up-to-date insights.

Incorporate Miscellaneous Costs

Remember that the primary construction expenses don’t account for additional costs like land acquisition, startup operational expenses, marketing initiatives, equipment procurement, and initial inventory.

Professional Consultation

Partnering with local architects, contractors, and construction experts enhances your understanding—their expertise aids in devising precise cost projections based on your location and project requirements.

How big of a budget do you need?

In order to set a budget for the development, you need to decide what type and what size of grocery store you intend to build. This will also influence the construction work that needs to be done, including whether you should adopt a design build construction process to streamline various phases of the project.

As with any construction project, there are some fixed upfront costs that you need to allocate money towards. Only by doing this can you get the project off the ground. According to Profitable Venture, here are costs include:

  • Registration fees for the business
  • Licensing fees and permit costs
  • Insurance fees
  • Contractor fees
  • Developer costs
  • And much more

These are also examples of construction soft costs, which are non-tangible costs that aren’t directly related to the cost of construction itself. Nonetheless, these fees are necessary and must be incorporated into your total budget.

Depending on the size of the store, Profitable Venture recommends that you budget for up to $250,000 for a small independent grocery store; over $300,000 for a medium-sized business, and over $1 million for a large building. On top of that, let’s assume that you franchise the Loblaw or Sobeys brand. In this particular case, you’ll require a much larger budget to build and operate under those established names.

Retail shell construction costs

There are two types of structures one can use when building a new grocery store. The first is a freestanding building with a retail store shell. The second is space in a mall or civic centre. One that is leased out to a tenant to repurpose for their own needs.

For the freestanding retail shell construction costs, you want to break down your total construction costs and calculate the average commercial construction cost per square foot to set a baseline for how your project will unfold. This is a strategy used in the commercial office space sector, and the same model can be repurposed for a grocery store.

After acquiring a baseline for the average cost per square foot, you can determine how to keep the retail shell space costs in line and on budget. This will help keep the entire project on target for completion.

Commercial fit out costs

Is your grocery store rented space within an existing freestanding structure, like a mall or a civic centre? If so, you’ll need to absorb what are known as commercial fit-out costs. Fit-out costs are interior design work and renovations to the leased space in order to make it suitable for the grocery store to occupy that space. Much of this work may include refurbishments to match modern interior design trends that encourage people to enjoy the space within the store.

The CBRE Group, a leading commercial real estate services and investment firm, have created commercial fit-out cost guides by continent. With these, developers can establish a baseline for their own costs. The North American guide is available for download, which you can use to allocate funds and resources for your own fit-out costs.

Construction material costs

The biggest costs in your budget will be the material costs and the equipment used to construct the building. Things like concrete, steel, softwood, hardwood; all of these materials are significant chunks of your development budget.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a sizable production slowdown in many building materials throughout 2020. This is particularly true for softwood and hardwood lumber which, according to Electrical Business, softwood and hardwood production in April and May of 2020 were down 33.5% and 18.7%, respectively. This massive drop in production at the height of the pandemic resulted in a net increase in the cost of non-residential production costs by Q3 2020.

What does this mean for your grocery store development plans? It means you can expect to pay higher rates for the materials needed for the project. Make sure you hire a commercial manager who knows how to negotiate for the highest quality materials at the lowest possible price.

Construction labour costs

Like materials and equipment, labour costs are one of the biggest and most important pieces of your development project. From the supervising foreman right through to the general labourers, you want to hire skilled tradespeople. You want to employ those who can get the job done to the highest standards. But you also don’t want the cost for good labour to blow a massive hole in your budget.

That’s why using a service like BUILD IT will ensure you get quality workers at the most affordable price. We have access to a talented pool of vetted and skilled labourers. You can use our services to manage the tradespeople who will complete the work, and shift more of your own time towards the big picture of your business.

Regional Comparisons: Alberta vs. Ontario

The contrast between Alberta and Ontario exemplifies how regional dynamics can shape construction costs. Alberta, renowned for its resource-driven economy, typically witnesses lower construction costs than Ontario, particularly its urban centers. This is attributed to factors such as labor availability, resource proximity, and lower living expenses.

Ontario, with its bustling metropolises, experiences higher construction costs. Cities like Toronto exhibit heightened labor costs and a competitive construction market, elevating expenses. Additionally, regulatory and permitting procedures can be more intricate in densely populated regions, adding to the overall financial outlay.


Embarking on the journey of constructing a grocery store in Canada necessitates meticulous planning and a comprehensive grasp of construction costs. The preliminary estimate of $200 to $400 per square foot is a stepping stone, but it’s imperative to factor in the location, size, design, materials, labor, permits, and unforeseen contingencies. By extensively researching, collaborating with industry professionals, and considering regional dynamics, you can tailor a realistic construction budget that aligns with your grocery store vision while accounting for regional disparities.

Building a grocery store for your neighbourhood is an admirable prospect. After all, everyone needs a place to shop for the household essentials. Depending on your approach to the construction, you could make your grocery store profitable much sooner than later.

If you follow construction best practices, you can go a long way towards keeping costs in line. You can also leverage services, like BUILD IT, to take some of the logistical burdens off your own shoulders. Without that stress, you can focus more time and energy on preparing for opening day. On top of that, you can concentrate on managing the store once it’s open to the public. Together, this will help you bring your vision to life. We will turn it into a profitable venture that adds real value to your community.