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Loblaw spending more than $2B to build more than 40 new stores, renovate hundreds

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Canada's largest grocery retailer is spending more than $2 billion to expand its empire with plans to build more than 40 new stores and renovate hundreds of others.

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. announced Tuesday the record investment plan, which includes the expansion and relocation of 10 stores and renovations at 700 locations across its banners.

"We will introduce more than 40 new discount stores and 140 new pharmacy care clinics in communities across the country -- making health care and affordable food more accessible to more people," Loblaw chief executive Per Bank said in a news release.

The company, which owns the Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore and T&T banners, has a network of 2,500 stores across the country.

Asked where the new stores will be located, Loblaw spokesperson Catherine Thomas told The Canadian Press in an email, "We'll be opening in communities across the country but aren't breaking it down more specifically at the moment."

She also did not provide a list of which stores will be expanded or renovated, but said overall, the chain will have more discount stores opening and being converted and a focus on adding pharmacy care clinics.

The investments this year will create more than 7,500 jobs, including in-store and constructions roles.

"These investments in Canada are a catalyst for job growth and the creation of countless opportunities, in our stores, in our company and with the many partners who work with us," Bank said.

Loblaw has faced increasing pressure from Canadians and lawmakers to help the country cope with the burden of inflation, which Statistics Canada said Tuesday sat at 2.9 per cent in January compared with 3.4 per cent in December.

Food inflation has been particularly sticky. It fell to 3.4 per cent annually in January compared with 4.7 per cent in December.

Struck by the persistence of food inflation and sizable profits at grocers, politicians have been pushing for supermarket chains to stabilize prices.

Last fall, the Liberal government summoned the heads of grocery companies, including Loblaw, to present plans to stabilize prices.

Loblaw has since rolled out a "Hit of the Month" program introducing sales on a handful of goods that change each month.

There have also been efforts to introduce a grocery code of conduct, which would set out rules for fair dealing in the negotiations between suppliers and grocers.

Plans to develop a code began in 2020 after some grocers introduced supplier fees.

However, the industry-drafted code has not come into force because Loblaw and Walmart have refused to sign it because they fear it will push prices even higher.

Last week, the House of Commons committee studying food prices warned Loblaw and Walmart that if they don't sign the code, they run the risk of its tenets being legislated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2024.

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