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Loblaw boycott organizer says she met with CEO to talk about food prices

One of the organizers of a month-long boycott of Loblaw-owned stores says he met with the store’s president and CEO, Per Bank, on Thursday afternoon.

Emily Johnson, who started the Reddit page that led to the boycott, said she shared shoppers’ concerns and questions with Bank, a European retail executive who took the top job a few months ago.

“Obviously, the boycott continues,” Johnson said. But he said he “trusts the fact that we have an audience, we have their attention and they are listening to what we have to say and what we want to do.”

Loblaw said earlier in the week that he had reached out to boycott organizers to set up a meeting.

Bank believes the conversation was productive, said Loblaw spokeswoman Catherine Thomas: “We are listening and thought it was important to hear their concerns in person.”

The CEO discussed some of the things the grocer is doing to try to help customers struggling with the cost of living, Johnson said.

One of them is to eliminate “multi-buy” promotions, in which customers get a better price per unit if they buy more than one item, at No Frills stores.

Shoppers on tighter budgets can’t take advantage of these deals if they can’t afford four items instead of one, for example, even when the unit price is lower.

“Feedback from customers at those stores was that it was not a benefit to them (particularly because the basket sizes are smaller there) and that they value this change,” Thomas said in an email. “In other stores, where customers tend to buy more, multiple purchases are often a popular sale.”

WRONG CRITICISM

Bank and Loblaw Chairman Galen Weston spoke at the company’s annual general meeting on Thursday, where they rejected what they called “misguided criticism” of the company.

“Let me assure you that in every corner of the business, our colleagues are working hard to reduce costs and do things more efficiently. These efforts allowed us to reinvest savings to offset the impact of price inflation in our stores,” the Bank told shareholders at the meeting.

Johnson started a Reddit page about high food prices in November and quickly attracted the attention of frustrated shoppers. It now has tens of thousands of members.

As the number of people in Johnson’s Reddit group grew, so did calls for a boycott. The boycott’s official start date was May 1, the same day Loblaw reported that its first-quarter earnings rose nearly 10 percent from the same period last year.

Customers have become increasingly frustrated by rising food prices and profits made by grocery companies, and Loblaw has been at the epicenter of many of these frustrations.

“As a well-known company and Canada’s largest grocer, it’s only natural that Loblaw would be singled out as a focal point for the media and government and, of course, consumer frustrations,” Weston said at Thursday’s meeting.

Johnson said Loblaw’s meeting request took her by surprise and that at first she and the other organizers weren’t sure if she should accept it.

“For me, it was… ‘let’s listen to them,’” he said. “Because if we’re not here to solve the problem, or if we’re not here to try to solve the problem, then why are we boycotting?”

“My goals were to sit down and talk with him, share these perspectives, listen to his perspectives and present that information to the community.”

On May 3, boycotters also launched a petition sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green, calling on MPs to address “monopolistic practices in the food retail sector”, investigate practices such as inflation reduction and accusations of price fixing or collusion, and implement measures to promote fair competition. in the food retail industry, explore ways to prevent “excessive price gouging on essential food products” and have Loblaw and Walmart sign the supermarket code of conduct.

A House of Commons committee has been studying food prices as well as the supermarkets’ code of conduct, and has urged the two shopkeepers to sign it. And last June, the Competition Bureau published a report on the grocery sector, calling it concentrated and making recommendations to improve competition in the industry.

Johnson previously told The Canadian Press that while the main goal of the boycott is to have a financial impact on the company, he also hopes the boycott will educate people and draw the government’s attention.