‘Happy to be an option’: Lanark, Leeds and Grenville area independent grocery stores respond to Loblaws boycott

Photo by Alistair Lee/Google Images

Among the ongoing boycott of Loblaws for the month of May, many Canadians are actively choosing to avoid shopping at the grocery store giant, along with other banners that fall under the company’s domain including Shoppers Drug Mart, Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills and more.

The month-long boycott originated as an online Reddit campaign and officially began on Wednesday, May 1. So far, thread has amassed over 69,000 followers. Its description says it’s “a sub devoted to highlighting the ridiculous cost of living in Canada right now. We’d like to thank our corporate overlord Galen Weston Jr. of Loblaws (and CEOs like him) for continually raising grocery prices so he can get a big fat bonus cheque every year while the rest of Canadians struggle to make ends meet.”

With the extreme rise in the cost of living and grocery prices in Canada in recent years, it’s no surprise that many frustrated citizens have joined the conversation, sharing their opinions on the thread and refusing to shop at Loblaws or any of its affiliate banners. 

While there is no Loblaws store in Brockville, many locals do frequent the Real Canadian Superstore and Shoppers Drug Mart for their shopping needs. Popular food brands like President’s Choice and No Name also fall under the Loblaws umbrella and are distributed by these stores locally. 

Brockvilleist reached out to some locally-owned grocery stores in the surrounding area to see if they’re experiencing a consequential increase in foot traffic amid the boycott. 

Derick Buffam, owner of The Garden Market in Smith Falls, shared that since the boycott began last week, they’ve noticed a slight influx in customers; but he could not say for sure whether it’s directly related to the boycott, or just people shopping more in the springtime. 

“We’ve been growing steadily for five years and we’ve always been very lucky with great support from the community,” Buffam said. “People have a choice, which is great. We’re happy to be an option for people who want to shop a locally-owned independent shops.”

However, Buffam pointed out that one concern about the boycott is that if these big corporations slash all their prices drastically, “it could put smaller businesses like ours out of business.

“People should shop wherever they receive the best value and do what’s best for them,” he continued. “We’re always happy to welcome new customers, regardless of what drove them here.”

B&H Community Grocery prides themselves as “Kemptville’s Only Truly Independent Grocery Store.” They’ve been operating in the community since 1963. Store manager Jim Beveridge confirmed that they have not noticed any noticeable increase to shoppers recently, but chalks this up to the fact that Kemptville does not have a full Loblaws or Superstore nearby. He confirmed that business is running the same as usual. 

Some comments in the Reddit thread showcase that while many people support the idea of a boycott in theory, they will not feasibly be able to participate. Locally-sourced food and independent grocers inevitably sell their products for a higher price than a large corporation, and most low to middle-class Canadians do not have much wiggle room in their budgets.

One user wrote “It’s not that easy to just boycott them, they’re too big. They have their hands in everything. If you live in a smaller town you might not have a choice in where you buy your groceries.”

Another user agreed, saying “There’s no small greengrocer near me, and who exactly is better or more ethical? Amazon? Sobeys? Shoppers? There are no good options. They’re all nightmares.”

“A lot of people don’t have the ability to do this for financial reasons, not to mention transport/time restrictions. It’s a great idea, but not particularly feasible for a large part of the population” commented another user.

The momentum online continues to build, however, and considering the boycott is less than a week in effect, the true impact (or non-impact) of it will likely not be analyzed until a later date. 

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