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Loblaw reports $13.58B in Q1 revenue, as Reddit group's boycott kicks off

A drone photo from March of Loblaw Companies headquarter. The Canadian retailer reported $13.58 billion in first-quarter revenue on Wednesday morning, a 4.5 per cent increase from a year earlier. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)
A drone photo from March of Loblaw Companies headquarter. The Canadian retailer reported $13.58 billion in first-quarter revenue on Wednesday morning, a 4.5 per cent increase from a year earlier. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)

Loblaw Companies reported $13.58 billion in first-quarter revenue — a 4.5 per cent increase from a year earlier — on Wednesday morning, the same day that a group of frustrated shoppers said they would begin a month-long boycott of the grocery retailer.

The company said that its retail segment sales rose 4.4 per cent to $13.29 billion. Food retail sales were up by 3.4 per cent, while its drug retail sales under the Shoppers Drug Mart banner increased by four per cent.

Its earnings per share were $1.72 on an adjusted basis, an increase of 11 per cent, the company said.

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A group of shoppers who say they are fed up with the company's grocery prices said that as of Wednesday they would start boycotting the retailer's flagship Loblaws stores and its offshoot brands, including No Frills, Provigo and City Market.

The Reddit group, called "Loblaws is out of control," currently has 62,000 members. It is not known how many people will participate in the boycott.

During the company's earnings call on Wednesday, Loblaw chief financial officer Richard Dufresne said that its own inflation rate for food, or what it calls "internal inflation," was lower than the consumer price index (CPI) for food reported last month by Statistics Canada.

CBC News has not been able to independently verify this data.

Company says it's 'acutely aware' it has to win business

Loblaw and other major grocers have come under intense scrutiny, both by politicians and consumers, for reporting higher profits as some Canadians struggle to afford groceries.

February marked the first time since October 2021 that the inflation rate of food purchased from stores was lower than the overall inflation rate of all items, according to data from Statistics Canada.

While the pace of growth has taken a slower turn in recent months, grocery prices are still rising.

Responding to the online boycott, a company spokesperson told CBC News that Loblaw is "acutely aware" that it has to win its customers' business each day.

"The last few years have been tough for Canadians, and we continue to do what we can to combat inflation at our stores," the spokesperson said in a statement sent on Tuesday evening.

"Customers are noticing, with more visits in our stores and many commenting in the same Reddit groups that they're getting real value at our stores, often the best across the industry."

David Soberman, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, said those kinds of statements ring hollow with consumers who have watched their grocery bills go up.

"They think to themselves, 'Well, what that guy was saying and what I'm experiencing are two different things,'" he said.

Rather than talking about prices, "I think it'd be a lot more credible if they were to talk a little bit more about how they're trying to control costs, how they're working with manufacturers, farmers and producers to find out ways to try to stock their shelves and provide products more efficiently," said Soberman.