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Despite backlash, some Loblaw stores still discount perishable food by 30% — not 50%

Loblaw announcing in January it would bring back 50 per cent discounts on perishable food, but some Real Canadian Superstore customers still feel shortchanged. That’s because the Loblaw-owned chain will continue to discount all food nearing its best-before date by 30 per cent.

Loblaw says Real Canadian Superstores didn't offer 50% discount previously, so they don't get it now

Warren Chapman holding three items purchased at Superstore that were each reduced in price by 30 per cent.

Although Loblaw has now reinstated its popular 50 per cent discounts on perishable food, some customers say they still feel shortchanged.

That's because more than 100 Real Canadian Superstores owned by Loblaw continue to discount all food nearing its best-before date by only 30 per cent.

"I was disappointed," said Kim Siever when he recently visited his local Superstore in Lethbridge, Alta., and found no half-off deals.

"Clearly they can afford it if some stores are offering it," he said, adding that by keeping the discounts at 30 per cent, it makes it difficult for some shoppers to buy what they need "to be able to feed their families properly."

Kim Siever holding a bag of bagels purchased at Superstore that were discounted by 30 per cent.

Some stores offer deeper discounts

Loblaw Companies Ltd. sparked customer backlash in mid-January when the grocery giant said it was reducing its 50 per cent discounts to 30 per cent for perishables in all stores. Due to public outcry, Loblaw reversed the policy within days.

But the retailer told CBC News that doesn't mean half-off deals are available in every grocery store.

"All of the discounts went back to what they were previously, which ranged between 30-50% off depending on store type … and product," said Loblaw spokesperson Catherine Thomas in an email. "Customers enjoyed these, and we listened."

Even so, the company's public flip flop sparked new complaints, because it shed light on the fact that some of its grocery stores offer deeper discounts than others.

<a href="https://twitter.com/ShayeGanam?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ShayeGanam</a> <br>I noticed today at loblaw Super Store in Huntington Hills Calgary, only 30% reduction stickers on expiring items. Recently they backtracked on this saying they would continue the 50% reduction but apparently that was just lip service. <a href="https://t.co/6hkMwXKmtJ">pic.twitter.com/6hkMwXKmtJ</a>


Several customers in Atlantic Canada told CBC News their Loblaw-owned Atlantic Superstores mark down all expiring food by 50 per cent, including bread, produce and meat.

CBC visited several Loblaw-owned No Frills and Loblaws stores in Toronto and Vancouver, and found that most items were also discounted by 50 per cent. However, meat often got a 30 per cent-off sticker.

Thomas said "most discount stores (like Real Canadian Superstore)" mark down all perishables by 30 per cent.

She did not say why discount chain No Frills and big-box Atlantic Superstores offer 50 per cent markdowns.

<a href="https://twitter.com/loblawco?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@loblawco</a> said they were reversing this but at recent trips I've made to <a href="https://twitter.com/ShopprsDrugMart?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ShopprsDrugMart</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/RealCdnSS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RealCdnSS</a> in Regina the only discount stickers were for 30%. Is it just Regina or elsewhere that this is happening? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yqr?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yqr</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/groceryprices?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#groceryprices</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Canada?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Canada</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Saskatchewan?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Saskatchewan</a><a href="https://t.co/Aip6A6s4ZG">https://t.co/Aip6A6s4ZG</a>


Customer Warren Chapman argues that the company's explanation that Real Canadian Superstore doesn't do half-off deals is flawed. He says his location in Duncan, B.C. — the only Loblaw-owned grocer in the city — used to offer them.

Chapman says about five years ago, his Superstore reduced the discount to 30 per cent. He now wants Loblaw to reverse that decision — as it has done for other stores.

"They came out saying basically they made a mistake, and they felt that it's correct or justifiable for it to be 50 per cent," said Chapman. "I just don't see how they could justify treating their customers at Superstore different than they're treating their customers at their other stores."

Canadians hungry for discounts

Back in January, before the company backtracked, Loblaw spokesperson Thomas said the company was nixing its higher discount to provide "a more predictable and consistent offering."

Now, some food policy experts argue that, during a time of rising food prices, Canada's largest grocer should offer 50 per cent markdowns across its stores.

"I think that they need to have a better understanding of the landscape of what's happening in Canada and do better," said Tammara Soma, a food policy expert and associate professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

Tammara Soma at the SFU campus, outside.

Although the pace has slowed recently, the cost of food has risen 23 per cent per cent since 2020, according to Statistics Canada.

"So many Canadians are suffering and they rely on Loblaws because Loblaws exist all across Canada," said Soma.

In a news release last month, Loblaw listed its "ongoing efforts to lower food prices," which include opening more discount stores, introducing new promotions and offering deeper discounts on everyday items.

"We're turning over every stone in our efforts," the grocer stated.

CBC News asked other major grocers in Canada what kind of discounts they provide for perishable food. Metro said on average, it offers a 30 per cent markdown. Walmart and Empire (owner of Sobeys and Safeway) said they offer discounts, but did not specify the amount.

WATCH | Loblaw to reinstate 50 per cent discount on perishable food:

Loblaw to reinstate 50 per cent discount after ‘feedback’

3 months ago

Duration 1:58

After backlash from shoppers, Loblaw says it will return to discounting products by 50 per cent when they’re about to expire. The company said it ‘listened to the feedback from our customers and colleagues’ after revealing last week the discount would drop to 30 per cent.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says shoppers are hungry for bargains.

A survey commissioned by his lab found that out of 2,880 Canadians polled in late January, 59 per cent consistently seek out discounted food products.

However, close to half said they wouldn't buy perishable food unless it were marked down by at least 50 per cent.

"The quality is not there, the freshness is not there. So you're kind of expected to be incentivized to rescue some of these foods," said Charlebois. "Fifty per cent is kind of the sweet spot."

He says Loblaw should offer half-off deals at all its standard grocery chains to avoid more backlash.

"As a national player, you have to be extremely careful," when offering different discounts at different stores, said Charlebois, adding that the company risks being labelled an unfair grocer following unfair practices.

"To me, that criticism is warranted," he said.

According to Charlebois' online resume, he received a $60,000 grant in 2018 from the Weston Foundation, which has ties to Loblaw. He has said the money was given to a student who needed financial support.

'Use your voice'

Soma says that if grocery shoppers want better deals, they should speak out, just like they did in January when Loblaw tried to reduce all discounts to 30 per cent.

"We really need to use our voice," she said. "In Canada, we don't have a lot of options in terms of what supermarkets we go to."

A 2022 Competition Bureau report said the industry was dominated by a handful of major players and needed more competition to bring prices down.

During his interview with CBC, Superstore customer Chapman made a plea to Loblaw.

"Give us that 50 per cent off, come on."

WATCH | Only some Loblaw stores offer 50 per cent discounts:

Not every Loblaw-owned store offers 50% discount on perishable items

8 hours ago

Duration 2:04

Although Loblaw has now reinstated its popular 50 per cent discounts on perishable food at stores that offered it before, some customers say they want to see it at all Loblaw-owned stores.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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