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Boycott aims to put pressure on Loblaw’s pricing policies

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A proposed boycott of Loblaw stores is gaining momentum online.

Shoppers say they’re fed up with high food prices at major grocers and are urging others not to buy from any Loblaw-affiliated company during the month of May.

Talk of the proposed boycott started on social media, with organizers hoping to put pressure on the company to lower grocery costs and remove member-only pricing policies.

“I think something needs to be done for sure, because people can’t afford it,” one shopper told CTV News at a Kitchener Zehrs on Monday.

Others weren’t as optimistic.

“I don’t think it will make a difference to be honest with you.”

Organizers of the proposed boycott have a list of demands that includes a stop to retail-led price increases and an overall 15 per cent price reduction.

Loblaw responds

A spokesperson for the company told CTV News in a statement that the company is aware that they “have to win their customers’ business everyday.”

“The last few years have been tough for Canadians and we continue to do what we can to combat inflation at our stores,” the Loblaw PR statement said, in part.

For some Canadians, the proposed boycott doesn’t go far enough – a poster circulating online has declared May 12 “Steal from Loblaws Day.”

Loblaw called that “dangerous and irresponsible,” adding in a statement: “We sincerely thank the concerned groups, authorities, and many people who’ve denounced this behaviour. We certainly understand food affordability is an important issue affecting all of us, and we’ll continue to do everything we can, from lowering prices and making meaningful changes to our business, to help customers save money in our stores.”

Will a boycott help?

A food economics professor at the University of Guelph said he’s unsure a boycott of all Loblaw stores would make a difference to food costs.

“I know some of the demands have been reducing prices by 15 per cent. Well, grocers are making margins in the five and a half to six and a half per cent off net operating profit,” explained Professor Mike von Massow. “They just don’t have room to lower prices that much.”

He noted that rising prices aren’t primarily the grocer’s fault. He said other factors like the war in Ukraine, extreme weather impacts on production and the weaker Canadian dollar are mostly to blame.

“We’ve had this sort of perfect storm that’s been, to a large degree, outside of the control of both grocers and the government,” said Massow.

He does, however, understand why shoppers are upset.

“We’re looking for someone to blame and we feel the pain at the grocery store because that’s where those prices are going up.”

Massow also believes a month-long boycott isn’t very sustainable as shoppers usually opt for convenience.

Shopping local

Places like Victoria Street Market in Kitchener are hoping people choose local, smaller shops instead of major grocers. All their produce and fruit is locally sourced from Waterloo Region.

Victoria Street Market in Kitchener, Ont. on April 29, 2024. (Heather Senoran/CTV Kitchener)

“The fact that we are smaller gives us the opportunity to adapt really quickly and make sure that things are not missed and everything’s fresh all the time,” explained owner Bo Gedja.

Some shoppers also feel the customer service and food options are better at smaller stores.

“It seems more fresh compared to other local places. Everything seems more organized, filtered out,” said shopper David Lopez on Monday.

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