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Loblaw boycott organizers say they plan to keep movement going past May

The Loblaws flagship location on Carlton Street in Toronto on Thursday May 2, 2013. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/ The Canadian Press) The Loblaws flagship location on Carlton Street in Toronto on Thursday May 2, 2013. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/ The Canadian Press)
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The organizers of a month-long boycott of Loblaw-owned stores say they've decided to extend the boycott past May.

After a Reddit group created to vent and talk about high grocery prices attracted tens of thousands of members, plans formed for a 31-day boycott of Canada's largest grocer.

In a press release sent by organizer Emily Johnson on Tuesday, the boycott organizers say a poll of the community's members suggests most want to keep the movement going. 

The release says the boycotters plan to focus on advocacy efforts in the months ahead. 

Loblaw has pushed back against criticisms of the company as frustration mounts over food inflation, saying it is not responsible for higher food prices. 

“As a well-known company and Canada's largest grocer, it is natural that Loblaw would be singled out as a focal point for media and government and of course consumer frustrations,” said Loblaw chairman Galen Weston at the grocer's annual meeting earlier in May. 

He said 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. 

Loblaw and the other major Canadian grocers have been expanding their discount store footprints as more and more shoppers are flocking to those stores due to the rising cost of living. 

Food inflation has been moderating under the weight of higher interest rates, helping drive overall inflation lower in April, but prices are still significantly higher than they were a few years ago. 

Last year, the government called on grocers to do more to help stabilize food prices for consumers. 

Ottawa has also been putting pressure on the major grocers to sign on to the grocery code of conduct, an agreement meant to level the playing field in the food industry for suppliers and smaller retailers.

Last week, Loblaw announced it's ready to participate in the code after several months of discussions with the industry group leading its creation. The grocer had been a high-profile holdout on the code since last December, when it told a House of Commons committee that it was concerned the code could lead to higher prices. 

"The code now is fair, and it will not lead to higher prices," said Loblaw CEO and president Per Bank last Thursday. He said the company is ready to sign on as long as the other major industry players do too. 

In the press release, the boycott organizers said their statement reflects "the collective determination of a community fed up with the disparity between rising grocery prices and the record profits reported by companies like Loblaw." 

The Reddit group currently has more than 80,000 members. The poll conducted on Reddit shows almost 6,300 people participated, with about 3,700 voting to continue the boycott past May and about 1,900 voting to keep it going for the rest of the second quarter. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

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