Advertisement

Grocery prices in Canada: Organizers from popular Reddit group vow to boycott Loblaw-owned stores this May

A subreddit of 35,000 followers is demanding Loblaw lower prices and end exclusionary Optimum member-only pricing on everyday items

A popular Reddit forum that was started as a place for Canadians to vent about the rising cost of groceries is organizing a boycott of Loblaw and its affiliated businesses this May — a call to action that's quickly gaining traction.

The moderators of the subreddit "Loblaws Is Out of Control" are using the platform — which has over 35,000 members as of this past weekend — to organize a month-long boycott of the Loblaw company in May in hopes of forcing the conglomerate to lower prices. The thread has become a go-to place for Canadian shoppers to lament exorbitant pricing on everyday items, like a $16 watermelon and a $21 stick of deodorant.

Reddit thread creator: 'We felt it would be best if we organized that boycott'

Emily Johnson, the creator of the Reddit forum first launched last November, said intense discussions started happening on threads after Loblaw announced it would be scrapping its 50-per-cent off quick-sale section in their stores earlier this year — a decision it eventually reversed after intense backlash.

“A lot of natural conversations started to spring up about how we as a group need to do more and make our cause known to the people in charge (at Loblaw),” she tells Yahoo Canada. “As our moderation team, we felt it would be best if we organized that boycott.”

A series of posts to the forum followed, polling users on when the boycott would take place and what it would cover. They settled on the month of May and a focus on Loblaws flagship and other Loblaw-owned stores, including Fortinos, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, Real Canadian Superstore and Zehrs.

Boycott organizers are demanding a 15-per-cent reduction in prices and the removal of "member-only" prices, which forces customers to sign up for Optimum loyalty programs to be eligible for lower prices on everyday items. Last week, Redditors lamented a pack of toilet paper being offered for $4 to Optimum members, but $12 for non-members.

Organizers say people who can't avoid shopping at Loblaw-owned stores can still get involved by writing to their Member of Parliament. The group even offers a template letter to make it easier to "express my deep concern about the escalating grocery prices in Canada." Boycott organizers also offer a template letter to send to Loblaw customer service to express their ire over prices.

Organizers also suggest using Optimum points to pay for purchases when possible and buying only loss leaders at Loblaw-owned stores. Loss leaders are items stores offer at low prices, often at a loss, in order to get customers through their doors to spend money on other products.

“If you walk in and just buy those loss leader items, that store is going to lose money,” Johnson said. “They really only offer those as a means to make money back in other areas.”

TORONTO, ON - November 20  Shopping for meat.
In spite of the hearings and rulings, the price  of food at the supermarket doesn't appear to be going down.  Products are seen at the Loblaws on Laird avenue in East York.
November 20 2023        (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - November 20 Shopping for meat. In spite of the hearings and rulings, the price of food at the supermarket doesn't appear to be going down. Products are seen at the Loblaws on Laird avenue in East York. November 20 2023 (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Protest organizer: 'The easiest way to participate in a protest [is] to organize one'  

Matthew Rozak, a university student in Toronto, said May couldn’t come soon enough for him to take action against the increase of grocery prices, so he organized a protest this past Saturday outside the Loblaws store at Bathurst St. and St. Clair Ave.

While turnout was less than he anticipated as a result of a significant snowfall, Rozak said the protest turned out as "the best we could have hoped," and even captured some media attention. He said shoppers are planning similar protests in other cities.

“I am tired of the nonstop price increases at the grocery store,” he said. “Everyone else I talk to has been feeling the exact same way. I saw the boycott call (on Reddit) and was curious if there was an associated protest and there wasn’t. I realized that the easiest way to participate in a protest was to organize one.”

“I would like to see Canada adopt food waste laws similar to France," Rozak said, "where soon to be expired food is donated to food banks or made free, and grocery stores are fined for throwing away products.”

Loblaw responds: 'Continued moderation in future months'

Loblaw did not respond to a request for comment, though a representative with the company has addressed the issue of food prices in Canada

In a statement, Chief Financial Officer Richard Dufresne said that according to recent data, food inflation from food bought at stores in the country is now at 2.4 per cent, its lowest since July 2021.

“For Canadians who continue to face extraordinarily higher costs of living, this is good news, and signs point to continued moderation in future months,” the statement read.