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Ottawa shoppers plan to boycott Loblaw-owned stores starting Wednesday


A boycott targeting Loblaw-owned stores is gaining momentum online, with thousands of shoppers taking their money elsewhere for the month of May.

It's the latest sign of Canadians' mounting frustration with the major grocers, which have been under political and public scrutiny for rising food prices and profits.

As Taylor Metcalfe is picking up fabric for her wedding dress, next to the Loblaws on Merivale Road, she says she won’t be shopping at the grocery store anytime soon.

"I'm definitely not going to be coming back here to shop and I'm going to save my money and spend it where it needs to be spent," Metcalfe said.

She’s aware of an online boycott of the grocery giant, planned for May.

"There's not much that we can do. So we've got to start somewhere," she said.

Taylor Metcalfe says she will take part in the May boycott against Loblaw. (Peter Szperling/CTV News Ottawa)

"I will take part in the boycott, now that I know it exists,” said another shopper.

What started as an online push, seems to be gaining momentum. The boycott, organized on Reddit, has reached more than 60,000 members.

"We don't want to struggle anymore," said Emily Johnson, a mental health and addictions worker in Milton, Ont., and one of the boycott's organizers.

Johnson and others started organizing the boycott after a Reddit group she created gained thousands of followers looking for a place to complain about Loblaw and other grocers.

The page, r/loblawsisoutofcontrol, now has more than 60,000 members.

While there's no way of knowing how many will participate in the boycott, the page is full of posts from people who say they plan to, or have already started.

There's also a list of demands to Loblaw from the boycott organizers that includes signing a grocery code of conduct and committing to affordable pricing.

"You could perhaps blame Loblaw for making too much money selling Chanel No. 5 or lipsticks, but when it comes to food, margins are actually not there at all," says Sylvain Charlebois with the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

He says the anger should be directed elsewhere.

"I think Loblaw is part of the problem, but the group is actually aiming at the wrong problem. It's not about the consumer in the store. It's about the supply chain," he said.

"The supply chain bullying happening between Loblaw, Walmart and suppliers. That's really the problem. And it needs to be fixed."

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Loblaws defended the company's prices and value.

"As a business, we are acutely aware of the fact that we have to win our customers' business each and every day. The last few years have been tough for Canadians, and we continue to do what we can to combat inflation at our stores," Loblaw said in an email.

"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. That won’t change - we’re going to keep working hard to deliver on our commitment to value and to rebuild the trust grocers have enjoyed for more than 100 years."

Shoppers at the Merivale Road Loblaw store have mixed views about the boycott.

"No, I don't think I'll change my shopping habits," said one shopper.

"I think all of the big chains. Sobeys, Metro, Loblaws, they're all the same. Every one of them are gouging us," says Jim Kitts.

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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