Holiday season |  Metro will not accept price increases from suppliers

Holiday season | Metro will not accept price increases from suppliers

Supermarket chain Metro said on Tuesday it would hold food prices steady for the holiday season, as it says it used to, after one of its main competitors launched a price freeze campaign on Monday to fight inflation.

Updated yesterday at 5:36 pm

Brett Bundale
the canadian press

The Montreal company explained that it would not accept cost increases from its suppliers during its busiest time of the year “to avoid any changes in retail prices, with rare exceptions nearby.”

“It’s a longstanding practice at Metro,” the grocery store’s vice president of public affairs and communications, Marie-Claude Bacon, said in an email. “This keeps retail prices stable for our customers in our stores. »

Loblaw Companies announced Monday that it will freeze prices on all of its “No Name” brand products through January 31.

Metro’s price suspension applies to both private label and national brand products, and runs from 1Ahem November to February 5, said Bacon.

His comments appeared to differ slightly from a statement Metro provided to CBC News on Monday, which suggested it was “industry practice” to freeze prices during the holidays.

“It gave the impression that retailers were colluding to fix the price of food products they buy from suppliers, which is illegal,” said Simon Somogyi, a professor at the University of Guelph and holder of the Arrell Chair in Food Trade. . “There seemed to be an anti-competitive problem. »

In recent years, Canada’s three big supermarket chains have come under fire for a multi-year bread price-fixing scandal and the simultaneous end of “hero” bonuses paid to front-line workers during the pandemic.

When asked if turning down vendor cost increases during the holidays was an industry practice, Bacon claimed that he “could only speak for Metro”.

PR operation?

Still, Metro’s initial suggestion that keeping prices steady during the holidays is unprecedented for supermarkets raises questions. Was Loblaw’s price freeze announcement more of a PR stunt than a genuine effort to help Canadians during a time of high food inflation?

Loblaw’s vice president of communications, Catherine Thomas, said Tuesday that “it has been common for some vendors to keep their costs down during the busy holiday season.”

“Summary: It is not usual to commit to maintaining prices at all times of the year, especially for 1500 items [de marque “Sans nom”] which covers fresh, frozen, dairy and packaged products, whose price is already 25% lower on average than comparable products. »

Sobeys and IGA’s parent company Empire, which along with Loblaw and Metro is one of Canada’s three largest grocers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about their plans to keep prices stable over the holidays.

Loblaw and Metro’s comments follow similar moves by shopkeepers in other countries.

In August, the French supermarket chain Carrefour announced plans to freeze the prices of around 100 of its private label products until November 30.

In June, the US branch of German grocer Lidl launched a summer price-cutting campaign to ease the inflationary burden on customers.

“If Loblaws really cared about increasing consumer spending on groceries, why didn’t they do it earlier this year when these double-digit price increases really started showing up in grocery stores,” said Stuart Smyth. , associate professor of agriculture and natural resource economics at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

He added that making the announcement just after the lucrative Thanksgiving season “smacks of hypocrisy.”

“When they’ve just reaped all the benefits of Thanksgiving, one wonders how legitimately worried they are,” Smyth added.

Still, the price freeze is still a “good move,” he added, and they don’t deserve to be reprimanded for making an effort.

“If the food retail industry hadn’t been singled out for fixing bread prices, it would be much easier to see this as a goodwill gesture.” »

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