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One month into Loblaws boycott what effect has it had on grocery store giant?

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One month into a boycott of Loblaws, the effectiveness of the campaign against the grocery store giant remains uncertain.

The movement, initiated by a group on the social media platform Reddit called ‘Loblaws is Out of Control,’ encouraged Canadians to avoid shopping at the grocery chain or any of its affiliates for the month of May to protest soaring grocery prices and record-high profits posted by the company during a cost-of-living crisis. While we won’t know for sure what impact the boycott has had on sales until second-quarter results are released, it likely won’t be significant.

David Soberman, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto, says he doesn’t think profits at Loblaws will have suffered because most of the people taking part in the boycott are what he would consider to be “switchers” – people who switch to different stores from time-to-time – rather than loyal customers so the impact of their actions will be minimal.

“I actually, in some ways, would like to be proven wrong, I’d like to see that Loblaws sales were down by five, seven, eight per cent because that actually means that the consumers have a lot of power. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s what we’re going to see,” he tells CityNews.

“As a result, the impact that it would have on Loblaws and their associated brands, like Shoppers, are going to be somewhat limited.”

Some smaller grocery businesses and independent stores in and around the GTA have reported a spike in business since the boycott began.

For its part Loblaws has pushed back against criticisms of the company, saying it is not responsible for higher food prices. Chairman Galen Weston said at the grocer’s annual meeting last month the company has been working hard to bring more value to customers through its discount stores, new promotions, and pushing back on supplier price increases.

While Loblaws did agree to sign the grocery code of conduct last month, Soberman says that had much more to do with the federal government threatening to impose new regulations than consumers avoiding their stores.

“They have seen it was probably in their interest to do so because the government could have come up with regulations that would have been more severe,” says Soberman.

The organizers of the May-long, nationwide boycott say they plan to extend the boycott indefinitely with a focus on educating consumers and drawing political attention to the cause.

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