When do the pressures of inflation take major retailers from legitimate profits to price gouging? I ask this out of deep concern. I watched recently when chairman and president Galen W. Weston Jr. who runs the Loblaws food empire, with annual revenues of over fifty-three billion, made the claim that he would freeze prices on all Loblaws ‘No Name’ products. In many cases these products are staples that are produced for the Loblaws’ stores by a manufacturer who is discounting a regular product line in exchange for a substantial contract that can run for years.
In effect, the offer by the Weston heir was nothing more than a publicity gimmick. Loblaws has been reporting higher quarterly profits recently to the point that the competition bureau in Ottawa has finally taken an interest.
But I would like to tell you a short story about how they do this.
I should state up front that I love supermarkets. I was trained as a young man in the ins and outs of managing these stores.
There was a time, when I was young, that it was questionable if the Loblaws chain would survive. As part of the Weston conglomerate, it has flourished. Today it’s the largest food, drug and financial operation in Canada.
And, as much as I like Loblaws’ Zehrs and Fortino stores, my wife knows she gets the best prices at Loblaws’ No Frills stores. And even there you need to be really tuned into prices and what is on special.
I always like to have orange juice in the fridge and in the past year I have been buying Del Monte orange juice in 2.5 litre jugs for $4.49 at No Frills. The other day I was picking up the wife from an appointment at Georgian College and dropped into the Zehrs nearby to get something she thought might be on special. It wasn’t, but while there, I recalled I was low in orange juice. They had the same Del Monte juice, only the dairy case guy told me it was $4.99. I figured I had saved a litre of gas not having to drive to No Frills and I bought it.
It was when I got home that the wife showed me the bill. They had charged me $7.49 for a 2.5 litre bottle, I could have got at No Frills for $4.49. I might have bought it at a classier store but the orange juice all came through the same warehouse.
I guess that is why Weston is being investigated by the competition bureau.
Copyright 2022 © Peter Lowry
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