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Weston Speaks: The ‘Lord Of Loblaw’s’ Slams Protesters

He’s been silent for months. But now the CEO of Canada’s largest supermarket chain, Galen Weston is finally speaking out. And he’s slamming protesters who want you to boycott and steal from his stores…

Galen Weston Witness - © 2023 Spencer Colby - CPGalen Weston: Testifying at a federal government committee hearing
on food prices last fall. He’s been hounded by protests ever since…

Weston has been pretty much silent since the beginning of a string of appearances at Federal Government committee hearings last fall. But now he’s speaking out. What did it take to get under his skin? Seems it was calls from protesters to boycott his stores all this month. And even steal from them this coming May 12.

What he said

Weston is a man of few public words. But when he does open up, he minces no words. The Lord of Loblaw’s addressed he company’s annual meeting last week, calling online protests against the grocer ‘misguided criticism’. He also re-asserted his longstanding claim that soaring food prices are not the supermarket chain’s fault.

“As a well-known company and Canada’s largest grocer, it is natural that Loblaw would be singled out as a focal point for media and government, and of course consumer frustrations,” said Weston allowed. But: “Let me assure you that in every corner of the business, our colleagues are working hard to reduce costs and do things more efficiently. These efforts enabled us to reinvest savings to offset the impact of price inflation in our stores.”

Pressure is on

At the same time as Loblaw’s honchos gathered to reassure shareholders in a continuing troubled economic climate, two major protests against the grocer were gaining steam online.

The first, hatched a couple of weeks ago, was a call by leaders of the r/loblawsisoutofcontrl Reddit group to boycott the chain. And that includes all other chains that are owned by Loblaw’s. The group wants shoppers to take their grocery business elsewhere for the full month of May.

The second is more aggressive and more worrying – both for Loblaw’s and shoppers. A renegade protest group, led by anonymous online posters, is calling on folks to ‘steal from Loblaw’s’ on May 12. Shoplifting and outright grab-and-run thefts have increased alarmingly at all supermarket chains as food prices rise ever higher.

The theft blitz and it’s attendant upheaval has been decried by grocers and store security providers as a danger to regular shoppers and staff in the stores. Not to mention, it’s strictly illegal.

Weston strikes back

“There’s a group of people who have been relentlessly propagating a narrative that they know is false. And it is now being used to justify theft on a grand scale,” Weston said. “I’m optimistic and hopeful that Canadians reject the notion outright.”

On the other hand, Canada’s Food Guy, Prof. Sylvain Charlebois of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, believes some kind of consumer action was inevitable.

“I think it’s quite expected to see so much anger against grocers, and in particular Loblaws. […] Loblaw’s PR strategy over the last several months has been amazingly pathetic, to be honest. It’s like they were looking for this boycott.”

My take

The boycott protest has specific goals. Organizers are demanding the chain drop food prices by 15 percent across the board. They also want Loblaw’s to abolish ‘members only’ pricing, which offers discounts only to loyalty program participants.

I don’t think they’ll get what they’re after. But I do think Loblaw’s will throw them some sort of bone. We’ll have to wait and see. I predict we’ll hear from Weston, or some other highly-placed Loblawsian, next after the May 12 ‘Steal Day’ protest.

~ Maggie J.

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