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What are our supermarket chains waiting for to freeze prices?

The price of the shopping basket fuels conversations both at home and across the Atlantic. But European consumers are entitled to a boost that is not seen here. Its large supermarket chains multiply strategies to reduce bills.

Posted at 6:30 am

In early June, Carrefour launched the anti-inflationary challenge by offering a basket of 30 essential products for 30 euros ($40). At the end of August, the company blocked the prices of 100 essential products for 100 days to “support the purchasing power of the French”. There is also the operation of “adjusted prices”: Carrefour undertakes to “reduce its margins” so that the price of 200 of the most demanded national brand products does not move, or hardly moves.

His competitor E. Leclerc has created an “anti-inflationary shield”. Your customers are credited to a card that will be used the next time they buy certain everyday products whose prices go up. Lidl offered coupons with a 5% discount on all purchases, once a month.

Naturalia organic food stores offer a 10% discount on all their purchases to customers who pay a subscription of 5.90 euros per month. “With this system, Naturalia is cutting its margin [de profit] so that this effort does not weigh on the producers”, specifies its announcement.

  • PHOTO FROM THE CARREFOUR TWITTER ACCOUNT

  • PHOTO FROM THE LIDL FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

  • PHOTO FROM THE INTERMARCHÉ WEBSITE

  • PHOTO FROM THE FACEBOOK ACCOUNT OF E. LECLERC

  • PHOTO FROM NATURALIA WEBSITE

  • INTERMARCHÉ WEBSITE IMAGE

  • IMAGE OF THE CASINO FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

  • IMAGE OF AUCHAN WEBSITE

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There are also occasional offers that are surprising, such as the one from Auchan that sold Ariel washing soap for 1.21 euros, instead of 12.09 euros. A saving of 90%. Instead, Intermarché has pulled products that have become too expensive from its shelves, the most recent example being bottled water by Danone (Evian).

You will have understood that there is no shortage of ideas to seduce financially strangled consumers. Some chains in the United States and Australia have also announced sympathetic messages and price freezes.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, it’s the opposite.

If you think that in our large supermarket chains there are fewer discounts, your sense of observation is not playing tricks on you.

This is indeed the case.

The NielsenIQ Canada database, which contains the actual sales, for each product, of all supermarkets in the country, confirms this. Promotions are becoming rarer, so consumers are placing fewer sale items in their basket. This is the first time a decline has been seen since 2008, and it was not expected. “It’s a big surprise,” said Francis Parisien, senior vice president of sales (SME) at the consumer data analytics firm.

Compared to last year, the discounts are lower in six of the eight product categories.


It is not all. Sales are also less attractive than last year. Its amplitude decreased by about 10%.

“Currently, no poster gives us the feeling of understanding consumers,” observes Luc Dupont, a professor specializing in marketing and branding at the University of Ottawa.

Consumer distrust of the three main Canadian chains: Loblaw (Provigo and Maxi), Sobeys (IGA) and Metro (Super C), should not be surprising.

Their advertising messages ignore reality. It is as if the 10.8% increase in the shopping basket in August was not a major problem for its customers. It is as if the supermarkets have no role to play, they are mere helpless spectators.


It is true that small Quebec independents have begun to play with their margins to reduce prices, as my colleague Nathaëlle Morissette wrote, but this remains marginal.

Our three giants, who collect 60% of all the dollars spent on groceries in the country, must also temporarily tighten their belts.

As food distribution expert Sylvain Charlebois of Dalhousie University wrote on Twitter: “It does good PR, it’s easy, and it would show that [les chaînes ont] from heart.”

When a brand takes your side before thinking about its own interests, it brings fidelity, trust.

Jean-François Ouellet, Marketing Expert at HEC Montréal

And our supermarkets have the means to show their customers as much consideration as anywhere else in the world.

One need only look at their financial statements to be convinced. The closure of restaurants at the beginning of the pandemic caused sales to skyrocket and, to a lesser extent, profits (operating costs increased). Over the past year, inflation has had the same positive impact. Gross and net profit margins, as well as other ratios used to measure performance, have been flat or rising for years.

In short: the last two years have been very lucrative. Shareholders know this and have taken advantage of it. Clients now need bold and unprecedented measures to deal with an exceptional situation.


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