News Briefs

  • 7/28/2022

    Non-food sales down at Loblaw as inflation weary customers rein in spending

    Loblaw Companies Ltd.'s sales growth is softening as inflation continues to grip the economy and shape consumer shopping habits, the company's president and chairman said Wednesday.

    While the country's largest grocery and pharmacy chain sees "a little bit of softening'' with its Joe Fresh apparel brand going forward, what it calls "general merchandise'' or non-food sales outside of clothing are "notably down'' in the most recent quarter, Galen Weston said.

    "It definitely had a drag on our overall (comparable) sales results,'' he told analysts during a conference call to discuss the grocery and pharmacy chain's second quarter results.

    Several large U.S.-based retailers have warned in recent months about unsold inventory as shoppers rein in spending due to rising costs. Companies like Walmart and Target have suggested profits could take a hit as they are forced to mark down excess inventory.

    "The key in this circumstance is inventory. The question is how do you feel about inventory and do you have aggressive markdowns that you need to put through to clear that inventory,'' Weston said.

    "The answer is we feel good about inventory and we don't see any meaningful margin risk associated with clearing what's left.''

    The company posted an increase in profit and sales in its second quarter, with drugstore sales driving overall margin expansion.

    Pharmacy same-store sales increased 5.6%, while pharmacy and health-care services increased 6.1%.

    "Right now cough and cold (sales) ... it's like we're in the middle of winter,'' Loblaw chief financial officer Richard Dufresne said during the call.

    Weston added: "There's tremendous strength in fragrances. We're kind of wondering what people are doing with all of those perfumes.''

    Meanwhile, Shoppers Drug Mart opened Canada's first walk-in clinics staffed exclusively by pharmacists during the quarter, he said.

    "We have four consultation rooms, we have four pharmacists and we are seeing patients on a very, very frequent basis,'' Weston said.

    "As the provinces get more confident in expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists, we see an opportunity to have selected dedicated locations that can provide a health clinic-like service delivered by pharmacists.''

    The pharmacists treat minor ailments, prescribe cold sore medications and offer treatments for strep throat and urinary tract infections, he said.

    Meanwhile, the retailer's discount grocery division continues to post strong growth.

    Loblaw said its "hard discount'' banners No Frills and Maxi as well as its in-house brands No Name and President's Choice are continuing to benefit from value-seeking shoppers.

    Yet there are signs inflation has peaked or will soon, with expectations inflation will moderate in the second half of the year, Dufresne said.

    "Commodity price are coming off their highs, some freight costs are coming down and supply chain issues are normalizing _ other than fuel costs, which remain high but down from their peaks of last March,'' he said.

    The company said its net income available to common shareholders was $387 million or $1.16 per diluted share, a 3.2% increase from $375 million or $1.09 per share a year ago.

    Adjusted profit was $566 million or $1.69 per diluted share, up from $464 million or $1.35 per diluted share in the second quarter of 2021.

    Revenues were $12.85 billion, an increase of $356 million or 2.9% compared with $12.49 billion in the prior year quarter.

  • 7/29/2022

    Tim Hortons offers coffee and doughnut as proposed settlement in class action lawsuit

    Tim Hortons has reached a proposed settlement in multiple class action lawsuits alleging the restaurant's mobile app violated customer privacy, which would see the restaurant offer a free coffee and doughnut to affected users.

    The settlement, negotiated with the legal teams involved in the lawsuits, still requires court approval.

    The coffee and doughnut chain would also permanently delete any geolocation information it may have collected between April 1, 2019 and Sept. 30, 2020, and direct third-party service providers to do the same.

    "We think that it's a favourable settlement because it offers compensation that has a real value,'' said Joey Zukran, a lawyer with the Montreal-based law firm LPC Avocat Inc., which filed the class action in Quebec.

    "Privacy cases across Canada are never guaranteed a win,'' he said. "Here we have some form of guarantee, some form of recovery ... as opposed to uncertainty that could last.''

    It's unclear how many customers used the app during the 18-month period ending Sept. 30, 2020, and would be eligible to receive a free hot beverage and baked good.

    Restaurant Brands International Inc., the parent company of Tim Hortons, said in an investor presentation in May that it had four million active users during the three months ended March 31, 2022.

    "I think people who receive this will think it's paltry, but class action settlements are often paltry for the end consumer,'' said David Fraser, a privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Halifax.

    While the individual compensation may not seem like much, he said given the number of people potentially involved "it may be reasonable in aggregate.''

    Still, others may feel it's not high enough to "act as a disincentive to further mischief,'' Fraser said.

    "Any time you settle, there's going to be a compromise,'' he said, adding that the case "reflects how weird privacy harms are.''

    "If you used that app and Tim Hortons collected your location information without your adequate, informed consent but nothing has happened with that information, you actually haven't suffered what would be considered a tangible harm,'' Fraser said.

    "You're trying to compensate for the feeling of ickiness, the creepiness somebody might feel knowing that their information was collected without their knowledge or consent.''

    The proposed settlement comes after an investigation by federal and provincial privacy watchdogs found the mobile ordering app violated the law by collecting vast amounts of location information from customers.

    In a report released last month, privacy commissioners said people who downloaded the Tim Hortons app had their movements tracked and recorded every few minutes - even when the app was not open on their phones.

    The investigation was launched after National Post reporter James McLeod obtained data showing the app on his phone had tracked his location more than 2,700 times in less than five months.

    In a statement, Tim Hortons said it's pleased to have reached a proposed settlement in the four class action lawsuits filed in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario.

    "All parties agree this is a fair settlement and we look forward to the Superior Court of Quebec's decision on the proposal,'' the company said in a statement.

    "We are confident that pending the Quebec court's approval of the settlement, the courts in British Columbia and Ontario will recognize the settlement.''

    The company said the allegations raised in the class actions were not proven in court and the settlement is not an admission of any wrongdoing.

    Tim Hortons said it would be emailing customers Friday to inform them of the proposed settlement.

    Tim Hortons said the retail value of a free hot beverage is $6.19 while the value of a baked good is $2.39, plus taxes, according to court documents.

    Customers would be provided with a credit for the items with a coupon or through the Tim Hortons app, documents said.

    Details on the distribution of the free hot beverage and baked good would be provided if the court approves the settlement, Tim Hortons said.

    A hearing has been scheduled in a Quebec court on Sept. 6 to consider the proposed settlement.

    -The Canadian Press

  • 7/25/2022

    Foodservice and drinking places sales rose 3% in May: StatsCan

    Refrigerated foods sold at convenience stores

    OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says sales in the foodservice and drinking places subsector increased 3% to $7.4 billion in May, the highest monthly gain since the onset of the pandemic.

    The agency says sales at drinking places rose 6.1%, while full-service restaurants recorded a 3.1% increase and limited-service restaurants nudged up 1.9%.

    The category of special foodservices, which includes food caterers, food trucks and companies that supply food under contract such as through concessions, cafeterias or airlines, soared 8.1%.

    Statistics Canada says each province reported higher sales as most had lifted restrictions by May.

    Ontario reported the biggest increase in foodservice and drinking places sales at 3.8%, followed by Quebec at 3.5%.

    The agency says unadjusted sales in May were up 62.2% compared with May 2021 and 12.7% compared with May 2019.

  • 7/18/2022

    Multiple Crave Stevia brand chocolate products recalled over undeclared milk


    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued a recall for several Crave Stevia brand All Natural chocolate products because it may contain milk which is not declared on the label.

    The recall covers Crave Stevia Almond All Natural Chocolate, Dark All Natural Chocolate, Mint All Natural Chocolate, Sea Salt All Natural Chocolate and Sprinkles All Natural Chocolate, which were sold in 80 and 85 gram packages.

    It also includes Crave Stevia Chocolate Chips in 200 gram packages.

    The recalled chocolate was sold in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, and may have been distributed in other provinces and territories.

    It was also sold online.

    There have been no reported reactions linked to the product.

    The CFIA says it is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products.

    -The Canadian Press

  • 6/29/2022

    EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

    Vaping lettering on danger sign with yellow and black stripes. Electronic e-cigarette warning sign.

    BRUSSELS (AP) - The European Union's executive branch proposed Wednesday a ban on the sale of flavoured heated tobacco products, including some vaping items, as part of its plan to fight cancer.

    The European Commission said its proposal comes in response to a significant increase in the volume of such products sold across the 27-nation bloc.

    A recent commission study showed a 10% increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations, while heated tobacco products exceeded 2.5 % of total sales of tobacco products overall across the region.

    The ban would not cover all vaping devices, only those delivering heated tobacco. Many e-cigarettes only contain nicotine.

    "With nine out of 10 lung cancers caused by tobacco, we want to make smoking as unattractive as possible to protect the health of our citizens and save lives,'' said Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner for health and food safety.

    According to EU figures, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the bloc of 450 million residents. There are about 1.3 million cancer deaths and 3.5 million new cases per year in the EU.

    An estimated 40% of EU citizens will face cancer at some point in their lives, with an annual economic impact estimated around 100 billion euros ($120 billion).

    The European Commission previously said it wanted to ensure that less than 5% of the population uses tobacco by 2040.

    The ban's proposal now goes to member nations and European Parliament lawmakers for review.

  • 7/4/2022

    Saskatchewan ranchers call for investigation into retail meat pricing

    REGINA - A group of Canadian ranchers is calling for an investigation into meat pricing. The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association says it's asking the provincial and federal governments to look into what it calls an "imbalance'' between the price ranchers receive for the cattle and the price consumers pay at the meat counter. The group says many ranchers and feedlots are operating at a loss this year. Grass is still scarce on the Prairies due to last summer's drought, and the cost of feed grain and fuel has skyrocketed since last year. But packers and retailers are reporting strong profits this year. The Stock Growers say they believe slaughterhouses may be intentionally running fewer shifts to in order to keep wholesale beef prices high and allow fed cattle supplies to build up in the countryside. In the U.S., the Biden administration has already expressed concerns about rising meat prices and vowed to implement policies aimed at increasing competition in the meat-packing sector. According to Statistics Canada, the retail price of beef is up 11.2% year-over-year.

    -The Canadian Press

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