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Loblaw's = downhill

I just spent a frustrating evening shopping at the local No Frills AND Loblaws. My first visit to No Frills in several months and for the first time ever, found lots of empty shelves. I couldn't find everything I wanted (I couldn't even find canned tomatoes), so I went the Loblaws next. Some empty shelves and LOTS of crappy produce. I mean, the kind I would put in the compost. And then I tried to buy something from the bakery counter, but there was no salesperson at all. I flagged someone down, whose job was in produce but was willing to ring in something for me, and he couldn't ring in the code in the machine. So I had to leave without buying anything at all.
I had stories like this a few years ago when Loblaw's was transitioning, but I thought they were in the process of getting their act together. It's too bad because I've always liked the store and the company.

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  1. The food business is changing, maybe too fast for the new Weston scion. I go to Costco, but I find Sobey's, Dominion, and especially the Asian stores fill the gap.

    1. Right, two iffy stores and NG's a smoking ruin? Get real! The same could be said of any of the chains. NG stores in Mississauga/Brampton vary wildly--NoFrills, Loblaws, Fortino's--due in no small part to individual outlet's management and staff. Walmart's much-feared entry into groceries hasn't exactly proceeded at warp speed in ON. Walmart.ca is no brain trust. Costco seems to f-up the least--the result of careful management and decent CRM.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Kagemusha

        I've been a longtime customer of both these stores, and I've never had these problems before. Then they both have similar stocks problems at the same time? Doesn't seem like a coincidence to me.

        1. re: merlot143

          That' strange. I went into my nearby Fortinos this evening and the shelves were bare! Lots of empty spaces and missing items. . Is there trouble in Westonville?

      2. Were there any signs up about a renovation? Many of the Loblaws markets are being turned into Superstores. The one near me (at Mavis and Dundas in Mississauga) closed this past Saturday and is re-opening on Wednesday morning. For the past few months, they've been tearing down sections, moving departments around, emptying out shelves, offering $10 coupons off your bill, etc.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gnuf

          They are renovating quite a few stores, but not into superstores. My understanding is that superstores not already underway are very dead.

        2. I'm not sure your post is meaningful on its own, but you are absolutely right. Galen Jr has said this himself. Although there are vast differences in the capabilities of Loblaw store managers, and of No Frills franchisees, your experiences aren't uncommon.

          I can cite specific examples myself. An ownership change at my local No Frills (Riverdale Plaza) completely changed the shopping experience for the worse. My local Loblaws (Leslie/Lakeshore) has been terrible for years, and hasn't improved despite multiple management changes. Their stocking practices are weird (they don't stock many very common, popular items, an absurdity), produce and fish can be appalling, service counters are not necessarily staffed, and it's all bag-your-own (this is a full price store).

          But the problem is much bigger, even though many Loblaws offer a superb shopping experience (Queens Quay, Vic Park/Gerrard, and Forest Hill are really nice). After twenty years of doing almost everything right, Loblaws decided they could do it all, and do it on their own - and they couldn't. They got full of themselves, stopped listening to customers, and really lost their way.

          Prices are perceived as too high, even by Weston himself, though Dominion and Sobey's actually cost more. They, alone, do not have any 24 hour stores. The superstores have bombed badly - they are difficult to navigate, and their non-food inventory adventures would have killed a company with shallower pockets. They took on Wal-Mart in a pre-emptive strike, and they made Wal-Mart antsy for years, but they blew it completely and are now licking their wounds.

          Even their their mainstream grocery inventory has been out of whack for a few years. They still have President's Choice, but they need a new Dave Nichol (who was a horrible man to work for, BTW) and a new Jim White, neither of whom they have. And Galen Jr telling us that their new "green" shopping bags will be H-U-G-E ain't going to do the job.

          In short, these few stores are the tip of a very deep iceberg and Loblaws is in very bad shape. Back in the seventies, Loblaws was nearly dead. In a last ditch effort, they threw tons of cash at their problems and they made it work. They got superb merchandising (Nichol & White) and great business management (Currie) and became the North American grocery star for two decades. That's all gone now - it really is. They are fighting for survival.

          42 Replies
          1. re: embee

            embee: I'm in your neighbourhood and shop at the same No Frills and Loblaws. My experiences with both have been just downright appalling! The only cooking of any complexity I bother with any more is Asian, as I can reliably get ingredients in Chinatown East. Even if I pick an incredibly basic recipe, odds are excellent that a visit to both Loblaws and No Frills will still have me missing certain ingredients. A few weeks ago I decided to chance things and make some very simple meatloaf. Wouldn't you know it? Both stores were completely out of oregano, both fresh and dried. I just about hit the roof. How can you not have something as common as oregano in stock?

            Honestly, No Frills is pretty cheap, so I'm quite forgiving of them, but for the ridiculous prices Loblaws charges, they'd better damn well get their act together. Stop doing stupid stuff like opening in-store gyms, dry cleaning, etc. and just stock your freaking shelves already. I don't have a car and going to two stores to *maybe* make a meal is an entire evening for me, and that's before the cooking.

            1. re: vorpal

              The cute new little tags they are putting on the shelves speak volumes - the ones that say "please stock me" to the employees. In past years, employees seemed able to stock empty shelves without this "help". (If you work at a Loblaw store, don't be defensive - I know the fault isn't at your level.)

              Anyone who questions the basic point made by the OP needs to read the business press.

              1. re: embee

                What I noticed were little tags everywhere that said, "Spend less". A bit desparate and not too effective IMHO.

            2. re: embee

              Maybe I am dating myself here, but does anyone else see a pattern? I remember back in the early to mid-80's when there were "Supercentres" which were essentially a Loblaws with a bunch of non-grocery departments (I think that my mother still has the Sony clock-radio she bought there). I remember not long afterward, they closed those departments down and started focusing on their supposed core-compentancy which was the groceries. I believe it was at this time that Mike Nichol and PC really came into their own.

              Lately, I have found myself shopping at more than one store usually Highland Farms & Walmart (in Woodbridge...hey it is close to work), HF for the selection & quality and Walmart for prices...and only going to Loblaws when there isn't much else around...they have become more of an convenience store for me.

              And one last question...does anyone else notice that the prices b/w the various Loblaws are not consistent? Granted I haven't been to Loblaws in some time, but I do recall going to the Bayview & Sheppard location and seeing that the price for some of their items were much more expensive than the Yonge & Steeles location....or maybe that was just my perception....

              1. re: Lazar

                I also shop at the Leslie St. Loblaws, or should I say, use to. Than I switched to Sobey's on Broadview. I've heard that they were going to tear the Leslie St. building down. That was apparently why the video store and donut place had shut down. Now I'm not so sure, and it appears that they are fixing up the Loblaw's slightly and widdening the aisles. I only shop there for canned goods. Produce I prefer to pick up on the Danforth or anywhere else but Loblaw's.
                I'm looking forward to the new Sobey's on Laird opening up, which should be very soon. They have a hiring sign out front.

                1. re: millygirl

                  Well, guess what guys, the Leslie Street store is being turned into a Superstore. Thats why the other tenants are on month to month leases. The bulk store is staying put with few or no changes. The problem with shopping at T.&T. is you can get very few of your basics. I'ts great if you cook with asian ingredients, but hey, sometimes I want tomato soup for dinner! It's great for a hundred choices of noodles, not so great for spaghetti.

                  1. re: Leslieville

                    Ahha, thought so. Do you know if the plan is to add on to the existing building? I thought I heard that they were going to tear it down and start all over again.

                    1. re: millygirl

                      According to my source( I've always wanted to say that) They are using the existing building. Sounds very much like someone else posted about their neighbourhood store- They close up as a Loblaws and a few days later, they open as a super-store. As long as the bulk store stays I'll be happy! I think it's happening in the next few months, but not sure exactly when.

                    2. re: Leslieville

                      I don't know what they plan to call the place, but this info confirms what I posted earlier - the Real Canadian Superstore, as exemplified by Don Mills & Wynford, is dead, dead, dead. And given their experience to date, that may be a good thing.

                      They may add more kitchenware, small appliances, storage accessories, and the Joe Fresh line. But it will be a VERY different concept, and possibly a more rational one, than the Real Canadian Superstore/Wal-Mart Supercentre, model. This store is much too small for that. They would need to add half the parking lot to the building.

                      1. re: embee

                        After reading more of this thread (plus the need for one item), out of curiousity I went into the Don Mills/Eglinton Real Canadian Superstore for the first time in ages last night. The place was an absolute disaster - almost devoid of produce, tons of carts abandoned everywhere, tons of empty shelves and half-empty outside track freezers (except for the Joe Fresh section, which on glance appeared fully stocked), products that were available were strewn everywhere. It was as if they still haven't received their first post-weekend/New Year's shipments? Had the floor been dirty, it would have reminded me strongly of some of the lousier Food Basics locations.

                        1. re: jamie

                          I regularly shop at that Superstore, and I have to say it's not generally that bad. Produce is always better than the Leslie & Lakeshore Loblaws, but never as good as Longo's at York Mills & Leslie (both of these alternatives are also pricier). That said, I went to T & T for the first time tonight, and I will be shopping there as much as possible from now on, as the produce was excellent in terms of variety, quality and price.

                          1. re: jamie

                            Wow. I can tell you that the DonMills Supercentre was just fine on the 11th. All produce in stock, as were all items that I noticed, on the shelves. Clean, too. Sounds like night and day.

                            1. re: Yongeman

                              Ya, it sounds like an anomaly to me, too, considering it is where I usually shop, and almost always find what I need.

                    3. re: Lazar

                      Absolutely right to all who have posted re the downward spiral and for just about all of the stated reasons..My local Loblaws (Dupont & Christie) is about to undergo some BIG changes (was told by 3 staff people in November)slated for early Spring. Even though this store makes a profit, the St.Clair (Forest Hill) branch is outperforming...I, personally do not like St.Clair branch and will continue to support Dupont & Christie as long as I can comfortably shop there. That being said, even in November I found myself going to the Sobey's at Shaw Street more often out of necessity because a lot of stock was missing at Dupont Loblaws. Apparently the 'employee's union' is also involved..so there are indeed, some serious problems.

                      1. re: pearlD

                        if you live in the dupont and christie area, why not shop at Fiesta Farms? probably the only local independent big grocer left in toronto, and doing a hell of a job trying to meet the increasing demand for local and organic items. beats shopping at any of the corporate chains any day.

                        1. re: Kasia

                          I found their overall stock different from, and more interesting than, the stock at the corporate chains. But I was very disappointed in the quality of their deli, meat, and fish.

                          1. re: Kasia

                            Fiesta Farms has never been a store that appeals to me....I do use their 'nursery' in the summer months and find it all right...nothing special but usually buy some hanging plants/impatiens...the store itself simply doesn't 'catch my eye'...perhaps I am too tuned into the whole Loblaws/P.C.corporate mentality? I don't go out of my way to buy 'organic' so that would not constitute a reason to change markets..who knows by the the time I get back to Toronto perhaps I'll be more adaptable if my local(Dupont) Loblaws has changed significantly.

                            1. re: pearlD

                              Fiesta Farms is a far superior supermarket to either Sobeys or Loblaws. Their bakery and deli alone are worth going for but when you add the better selection of organic and fair trade products plus a better produce section then most other supermarkets its a sure fire winner. Plus its owned by people from the area and I always like supporting that. Between the PAT and Bloor and Clinton and Fiesta Farms I basically only go to Loblaws for their weekly loss leader.

                              Either way Fiesta Farms is truly a better shopping experience for any foodie. I've seen a myriad of Toronto chef's shop in there and over a decade have personally experienced it as a quality place.

                              1. re: Ender

                                Although I don't live too close, I agree with Fiesta Farms--it's kind of like the people's Whole Foods. Ender, what's the PAT?

                                1. re: Yongeman

                                  PAT is a korean grocer on bloor west that's often overlooked. love that i can get perilla/shiso leaves from there and some great ramen when i'm not in the t&t nabe.

                                  fiesta farms only really gets me for their dry/packaged goods and some of the produce. most of the other times i find quite overpriced. this past summer i got some excellent peaches from them for cheap.

                                  i have very low expectations for no frills and most of the time they're met. so i have few complaints about them.

                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                    PAT is also in Miss., and at Lawrence and Warden.
                                    Great for rice, miso, seaweed, and most Japanese or Korean items.

                        2. re: Lazar

                          Loblaws in my area just keeps getting better and better. However I've never liked Loblaw's prices so I use the Price Chopper for basics like canned goods and basic produce.

                          If I want something fancy or I need cuisine ingredients or organics I hit Loblaws. I wouldn't say they're going downhill on the surface, although beneath the surface who knows whats going on.

                          If I had my way, I'd live close to a small local produce stand so I could buy fresh daily.

                          1. re: 50firstdatesguy

                            The Queens Quay Loblaws prices are ridiculous, everything is marked up anywhere from 50 cents to 2 dollars..... yet I still shop there because of the convenience.

                          2. re: Lazar

                            I actually will step in and defend the loblaws superstore in my neighbourhood, which is 401/weston rd..
                            In terms of product selection and variety it ranks higher then any grocery store i've been too (eg. jamaican, indian, thai, italian, chinese/asian sections). I have been able to buy everything from curry paste to panko crumbs under this one roof. As well, they offer seasonal produce and exotic produce most of the time. The bakery is also quite good - I love caramel crunch (the larocca cake)
                            I actually love that they have clothes/kitchen supplies and a gym under the same roof. The prices are incredible. I got a betty crocker rice cooker for 9.99 that does the job. Evenmore, if I need that odd kitchen tool for a recipe I am going to make that night, I dont need to make a seperate trip.
                            The gym helps too!!!! Its the only one in my neighbourhood.
                            But back on point.I do agree that most grocery stores are lacking. I still do my shopping at mulitple locations, but if I did not have this luxury, this superstore would suffice.

                            1. re: Lazar

                              It seems like Loblaws' supply chain issues, which were widely reported a couple of years ago, are still a problem that plagues the company. As other have said, the problems seem to be more noticeable on a store-to-store basis, though I admit the only part of the Loblaws empire I tend to shop at these days is No Frills, which I find tend to have fewer stock problems.

                              What did surprise me was the lack of in-store sampling at Loblaws locations for the Christmas Insider's Report. I stopped at several locations in TO and Mississauga the weekend it came out and the only sampling I saw was for dim sum that wasn't even in the report!

                              1. re: Lazar

                                Yes, you're dating yourself :-)

                                They had some stores stores so big (Vic Park & Eg was one - it's now a No Frills PLUS a Zellers and a mall) that staff had to use roller skates to get around. But they so feared "cannibalizing" their regular stores that they disassociated these places from the Loblaw's brand. They refused to accept Loblaw's cheque cashing cards or honour Loblaw's advertised prices. Not surprisingly, these stores didn't succeed.

                                They had other stores that were really cheap, called Food Warehouses, the forerunner of today's No Frills. Vic Park/Lawrence and Leslie/Lakeshore were two of these stores. Lawrence is now a No Frills. Lakeshore became a full price Loblaws sometime in the eighties or nineties, but warehouse store vestiges (like universal self bagging with especially crappy bags) remain.

                                Loblaws Ontario never mastered general merchandise, which is a very different business from food. The "Real Canadian Superstores" were a Western Canada phenomenon. Loblaws had no Western Canada presence before they opened these stores. My understanding is that they tried to move their experienced non-food people to Brampton from Calgary, and these folks simply quit. They've never been able to get the non-food logistics (Wal-Mart's great strength) organized, and their supply chain has never worked. That's why you might see forty toilet brush facings on an otherwise empty Superstore shelf. Seasonal merchandise would miss its season. They even messed up the groceries. Why, for example, do natural foods and laundry detergents share an aisle?

                                Wal-Mart held off bringing groceries to Ontario for many years. Unlike US grocery chains, Loblaws seemed to cover the entire price/service spectrum, from NoFrills, to high end, to almost full line department stores. They came in when Loblaws began to slide. I don't like Wal-Mart for many reasons, from their employment practices, to their politics, to their destruction of entire main streets. (Before Wal-Mart came on the scene, Loblaws was considered a good place to work. Now Wal-Mart sets the employment standards, and at a much lower level.) But I was surprised at Wal-Mart's grocery selection: essentially mid-to-high end stuff at No Frills prices.

                                It's common for grocers to vary prices by neighbourhood. One New York chain openly admitted that their nicer stores in better neighbourhoods had higher quality food, at LOWER prices, than their stores in disadvantaged areas. I didn't think Loblaws played these games at a single banner in a single market, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did.

                                There's also timing, of course. Few people in the GTA remember Steinberg's (once the dominant grocer in Quebec). Forty or more years ago, they had some stores that resembled Wal-Mart Supercentres - one was at Jane/Wilson and another at Scarborough Town Centre. Sam Steinberg was a food merchandising genius running a billion dollar vertically integrated business. But he could never master getting general merchandise into the stores. (He also died without a succession plan, and his three daughters squabbled the business into oblivion. I don't think the Westons will make that kind of mistake.)

                              2. re: embee

                                T&T on Cherry can be an alternate to Leslie Loblaws for certain fresh produce. Before the holidays, I needed certain fresh herbs and the Leslie Loblaws had run out of parsley for crying out loud and no sign of cilantro. I found plenty of fresh cilantro and a wide assortment of other herbs, including lemongrass, at T&T.

                                  1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                    I can't compare pricing between Loblaw's and T&T. I can say that the bells & whistles on offer at T&T make it a worthwhile trip. I have never seen steak on the regular meat shelves (not the butcher counter) of any grocery store in this city that comes close to the thick beauties there. Fresh fish, sushi on trays or a la carte, great selection of common goods and every imaginable Asian cuisine. Just awesome.

                                    1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                      Sorry, I can't answer that either, I don't do enough shopping there but from what I remember, everything seemed very reasonably priced. Even though quite busy, it was also pleasant to shop there. Lots of goods on offer, everything laid out nicely, clean and bright. Amost too many choices sometimes! I mean how can you choose from a whole aisle's length of noodles! Anyway, you might get a sense of pricing from their website -

                                      1. re: JamieK

                                        i spent my summer off trying to find the cheapest places to buy groceries. some of my findings:

                                        farmer's markets wine, obviously, but are seasonal...
                                        produce and dried mushrooms - more affordable at T&T, though produce quality questionable
                                        most dairy stuff - yogurt is most affordable at Sobey's when on sale, except Silhouette yogurt that retails for 10-20 cents less at Dominion, milk - in bags can be found at Shoppers (the newer expanded ones) for UNDER $4 - best find ever cause i drink a lot of skim!
                                        anything in cans - no frills/costco, obviously, or dominion in a pinch
                                        meat - interchangeable, though dominion sometimes has great sales on pork loins, chicken breasts, etc

                                        my searches determined that name brand stuff (cereal, ice cream) goes on sale randomly at various stores, so you have to keep an ear to the ground, and go frequently. i love it when Dominion does 2 Haagen Daaz for $10 :)

                                        other than that, the Compliments brand at Sobey's and PC stuff at Loblaws are pretty comparable product lines and price points, but the PC Blue Menu selection outweighs the Compliments Balance.

                                        what can i say? i'm a penny pincher!

                                        1. re: LemonLauren

                                          Have you checked out any of the grocery stores in Chinatown or Chinatown East? We buy all our pork and chicken in Chinatown East and save a fortune. Furthermore, produce is ridiculously cheap (especially sweet peppers and pineapples), and there are often great spur-of-the-moment deals, like a huge bag of green beans for a dollar.

                                          At Loblaws, when I get to the cash, I'm always shocked at the total when they ring up my purchases. In Chinatown, I'm also shocked, but in a pleasant way.

                                  2. re: embee

                                    I don't know that I'd qualify the experience at Queen's Quay as "superb". For the last couple of years it seems that their shelves aren't properly stocked with basics, and it seems to have grown worse in the last couple of months. Added to which, they've also just hiked their prices..

                                    1. re: Truffles

                                      That's just it. Queens Quay has generally been a well managed store with high quality - if expensive - fresh food. But Loblaw's supply chain is broken.

                                    2. re: Googs

                                      I've thought of that too, but it's wishful thinking. He had his time and he did his thing, but it's someone else's turn. If they don't find that someone, I predict that the Westons will bail out. It's a public company, and they could get better investment returns someplace else.

                                      I would imagine Nichol is seventy years old or more, and he had a serious bout with cancer not long ago. Apparently Galen Weston flew him for treatment in his private jet, so they must still be friends at some level. But he may not have the passion, or even the ability, any more. Everything he did post Loblaws has been a massive flop. His only surviving product is beer, and he doesn't even like (much less drink) beer.

                                      He never needed to leave, but he got greedy. Although I worked with Loblaws for a while during his tenure, I have no inside knowledge of what he got. But the buzz was a million in salary, an unlimited expense account, and the freedom to travel anywhere, try anything, and introduce any product he desired. The other buzz was that he felt cheated out of his fair due and wanted much more. (Remember, he never did actually run Loblaws - he just ran their product development arm. Seems to me that his compensation wasn't half bad.)

                                      One of his famous lines was that he had more failed products to his credit than any food marketer in history. That kind of freedom wouldn't fly today in any public company. Another was that he was a very religious man who worshiped at the shrine of St Michael (i.e., he copied Marks & Spencer's products shamelessly). He "borrowed" more than he created, and some of his personal tastes could not possibly survive the marketplace (You call that sour? I want that SOUR!!!) The methods he used to get PC products produced on the cheap were often nasty and sometimes scandalous (personal experience speaking).

                                      Where Loblaws did originate novel products, he stole the credit from the product developers who actually did the work. You'll note that current Insiders Reports usually credit the product developers, frequently by name. If Nichol returned, most of them would probably quit.

                                      There's also the fact that while Nichol (and his dog) was the corporate face, this wasn't a one man show. Nichol created sizzle, and his passion for food was right up front. But Jim White was the real food guy, and he also wrote the early Insiders Reports. Don Watt designed the stores and packages. And none of them was responsible for Loblaws bottom line, which belonged to some very talented people who you didn't see in the ads.

                                      The guy supposedly advising Weston Jr is credited with making Wal-Mart successful in the UK. He may be a great businessman, and he may fix the supply chain issues before the company chokes. But that won't bring back the sizzle, and Wal-Mart has failed whenever they tried to emphasize factors other than low price (and they don't necessarily always have the lowest price).

                                      Paraphrasing Ed Mirvish (RIP), a management team like Loblaws had back then happens once in a lifetime - or maybe never.

                                      1. re: embee

                                        Thank you for that embee. Its truly unfortunate. To bring back part of my post that's since been edited, grocery shopping should feel like Christmas. You should get everything you want and a few surprises to boot. I miss that buzz.

                                        1. re: embee

                                          Whoa, what a post, embee. There's a biography of him out there, have you read it? I heard he was a big-ego obnoxious, but it sounds like no one could stand him but himself.

                                          1. re: merlot143

                                            Yup!!! A years ago he was brought on to do some consulting work on our private label line. About 6 months in to his contract he was turfed. He had sucessfully managed to piss off the entire executive group and made no improvements whatsoever.

                                            1. re: merlot143

                                              I didn't know that and haven't read it, but I got pretty close from time to time. I worked with some Loblaws suppliers, I knew people who actually worked for Nichol, and (for reasons I choose to keep private) I had an office at Loblaws headquarters for a couple of years.

                                            2. re: embee

                                              Many years ago I remember actually looking forward to The Insiders Report. I considered it a good read and would even make notes of things I must try. That was probably at least 10 years ago now. These days I don't even bother. It really as a shame. I use to be strictly a Loblaw's girl.

                                              1. re: millygirl

                                                However, I LOVE Jim White's writing. I was so sad when he left as food editor of the Star. He communicated such joy and enthusiasm in his work.

                                              2. re: embee

                                                Nichol and Weston were roommates at the Huron College (C. of E.) residence at UWO graduating in '63, MBA's '65. They will be about 66 years old.

                                            3. its funny that you posted this because just on sunday I had a very similar experience. I never really have a problem at the loblaws I shop at (queens quay) which is a bit of a drive for me because my neighborhood one (broadview) is a dump. But anyways, I was surprised that about 5 or 6 things I wanted were not there and all of the shelves were virtually empty. I mean, I couldnt even get soda crackers or basil of all dried spices. So we went to No frills, which also was very poorly stocked and again, I only found a few of the items I had been missing. I hope this isnt a reoccuring event

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                                Queen's Quay is my local Loblaw's as well... it is unspectacular and expensive, but a bargain when compared to the new Sobey's at Front/Sherbourne. I will still go to the Sobey's because it is literally around the corner from my condo, is 24 hours, and has a much better selection of everything than Rabba's - the only other option in the neighbourhood. Bottom line is that for regular fresh produce, meat, and bread, the new T&T on Cherry St. is hard to beat. The St. Lawrence Market (north) on Saturday mornings is also pretty good if you can get up early.

                                              2. Loblaw's is definitely going through a transition, but I don't think they should be written off. As others have mentioned also, it really depends which location you go to as well.
                                                The Loblaw's near me at Bayview and High Tech has always been very good. The older one on Yonge near 16th is terrible. I only ventured in there once and would never go back. The Forest Hill location has always been a great store as well. I have never liked going to the Superstore at Dufferin and Steeles, however, the one at Don Mills and Eglinton isn't bad.

                                                1. I should qualify this by saying I really do want the company to succeed. I have worked at their offices over the years, and found them to be a good company to work for. The employees seemed to be content overall, and they were proud of their products. The latest PC products seem more interesting than in past years, and the Loblaws had plenty of those in stock.

                                                  1. This topic is very timely - I stopped at the Queens Quay Loblaws on Saturday around 6pm on my way back from Etobicoke, thinking it may be better stocked than my usual Leslie St. location. They were out of the 2 things I specifically needed for my cabbage rolls - cabbage and ground pork and turkey!! I was ticked, but figured it served me right for shopping at 6pm on a Saturday. I also noticed A LOT of empty shelves though. I ended up getting the stuff at the new Sobey's on Front - though not that convenient as it doesn't have any parking. The No Frills on Carlaw is still pretty good - I was always amazed how at lower end store I could always seem to find an employee if I had a question - never the case in Loblaws.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: bigos70

                                                      My significant other and I were just remarking on Sunday that for the past two weeks the Queens Quay Loblaws shelves have been BARE. We were wondering if they were still recovering from Christmas or something but it was almost to the point that I was wondering if they were going to be closing or renovating the store.

                                                      1. re: bigos70

                                                        It must have been a store-wide thing. I was at the Loblaws at Vick Park & Gerrard yesterday and they didn't have a number of things including ground beef (which seemed odd to me..). When I asked someone about it at the meat counter she noted that there had not been any even when she had arrived for her shift. The shelves were still moderately stocked but there seemed to be an awful lot of stuff missing.

                                                        1. re: bigos70

                                                          When that No Frills was Jeff, Rose, and Herb's, I was amazed at how well they ran the store. It's still one of the better No Frills stores, but nothing like it was. Selection, quality, and service are not the same. And they still have the broken supply chain to deal with plus the limited No Frills product selection. But it sure beats the Food Basics at Gerrard Square.

                                                          1. re: embee

                                                            Hi - new here, have been checking out this board for a while now, absolutely love it. Just wanted to mention that I have been frequenting the Superstore in Georgetown and for the past month, lots of those "Out of Stock" stickies on the shelves. Thought it was odd, but thought after the holidays things would pick up. However, stopped on my way home yesterday for a few things, and they were out of MILK! I asked at the checkout and they told me they couldn't even begin to speculate when they would be getting it in! I have been a fan of the Loblaws companies for years and found this very discouraging. I guess it's back to Sobey's - not a lot of choice out my way.

                                                            1. re: foodie_guru

                                                              Anyone know if the Sobey's at Harbourfront Centre has parking? That's really the only reason I don't go there.

                                                              1. re: foodie_guru

                                                                I heard that this Superstore location provides no regular bags whatsoever, an experiment at appearing more "green". How is this working out?

                                                                1. re: embee

                                                                  I received plastic bags yesterday, have not heard of them going green. Downhill yes, green, no!

                                                                  1. re: foodie_guru

                                                                    Was a pretty dedicated Loblaws shopper, but their stores have really slipped. Some are so big, you need a sherpa to help get around.

                                                                    I concur with going to Costco. And recently we've been going to Highland Farms on Ellesmere. Their meat and produce selections are OUTSTANDING.

                                                          2. Obviously a timely topic. My wife and I are pretty much boycotting our usual Leslie St. Loblaws. Empty shelves, lousy produce, insanely expensive meat...it feels downright Soviet in there. Lately our strategy, which is more time-consuming, is to hit T&T for a lot of our protein and Asian fruit/veggies, then head down to Whole Foods to fill the gaps. Funny, even though Whole Paycheck is certainly pricey, the combo with T&T is definitely cheaper than settling for whatever Loblaws deigns to sell us at a huge mark-up - and the quality so so so much higher. We'll also go to Cumbrae's or Royal Beef to pick up a red meat treat.

                                                            Now we just need a good green grocer in Leslieville.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: childofthestorm

                                                              I rarely go to Loblaws, as several years ago they decreased the fresh foods, and concentrated on frozen meals.
                                                              This is great for people in a rush, or who don't want to cook.
                                                              I don't get excited about Presidents choice meals.
                                                              My problem is that even Dominion, (where I used to pick up my basics) is having the same shelving problems.
                                                              The Dominion at Don Mills Lawrence stocked a good selection of fresh fruits and veggies, but the quality has fallen, as well as the selection.
                                                              There seems to be a malaise of all of the supermarkets.
                                                              I shop at Longo's, and all of the specialty stores.
                                                              I finally got to Fiesta Farms some time back, and agree with embee.
                                                              The meats look awful, and was not that impressed.
                                                              I am overseas a considerable amount of time on business, and remember the day when I compared our choices to the European grocery chains and felt proud to be Canadian.
                                                              Long gone.
                                                              We need a grocer to look at the selection and merchandising of the European Markets.
                                                              I was at the food court of Kaufhof in Frankfurt to-day, and wanted to buy everything.
                                                              It is an exciting place to be.
                                                              Beautifully displayed and wonderful cuts of meats, fishes.
                                                              Fresh produce, as far as the eye can see, and prices comparable to Toronto.
                                                              Unbelievable bakery, and everything and anything you could imagine, including foods from around the world.
                                                              Many, many times the selection of foods available to us.
                                                              These new supermarkets make Harrods Food Hall look puny.
                                                              Frankfurt is about a fifth the size of Toronto.
                                                              If they can do it, why can't we?

                                                              1. re: erly

                                                                They have, it's called Summerhill Market. You just have to be prepared to pay top dollar.

                                                                1. re: millygirl

                                                                  yes, and no.
                                                                  These new markets are huge,, and fairly priced.
                                                                  The major difference, aside from the visual, which is spectacular, is that I would guess that at least half of the selection is fresh produce.
                                                                  So fresh, everything picture perfect.
                                                                  It is foodie heaven.
                                                                  Embee would qualify more than myself to possibly suggest that this is dangerous for a chain, and truth be told, they do not have the vast number of markets that we do, so it possibly would not be economical for a chain.
                                                                  I can dream!

                                                                2. re: erly

                                                                  I agree about Dominion! I live near the one at Yonge and Eglinton and for the past 2 or 3 months I was wondering if their produce department was on strike. Sometimes I'd go (at various points during the day) and they would not have any standard produce.

                                                                  They also been out of random things lately -- their canned tomato and bean sections have been nearly empty and the other day they had NO pie crusts at all. And forget about finding sale items in stock...


                                                                  1. re: wontonfm

                                                                    and the yonge and eg location is out of my silhouette yogurts ALL THE TIME!

                                                              2. Agreeing with everyone. Loblaws closest to me at Lakeshore is dire and No Frills at Carlaw went way downhill after it changed from Rose, Herbs, etc. I like the Sobey's on Broadview but it is nothing to write home about.

                                                                What I would love to see in Toronto is this Trader Joe's that everyone on the American boards go on and on about. It seems like a really foodie / chowhound centric store. No sign that they are coming to Canada but fingers crossed.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: Mila

                                                                  I'll second the No Frills on Carlaw going downhill now that it's not Rose and Herb's anymore.

                                                                  1. re: 50firstdatesguy

                                                                    WOW!!! These posts have struck a serious NERVE!!!
                                                                    To those of you who filled in more details of FIESTA FARMS...thanks so much, I WILL check them out and pull my head out of the 'sand' (being nice here eh?) while doing it!!

                                                                  2. re: Mila

                                                                    Actually, Dave Nichol bought the Insiders Report from Trader Joe's - another of his "borrowings". They changed the name of their newsletter. But Trader Joe's is NOT a mainstream supermarket. They carry a small, constantly changing selection and their products range from fabulous to very bad.

                                                                    We would also be denied their most famous product here in Ontario, the wine known as "Two Buck Chuck".

                                                                  3. I seem to recall hearing that they were having trouble with their supply chain recently, and Dominion was having the same kind of trouble a couple of months ago.

                                                                    Overall, I've been reasonably satisfied with Loblaws - they don't carry everything I want, but in some cases, they seem the only place I can get certain products. Between Loblaws, Sobeys, and St. Lawrence Market, I can get 99.9% of what I want to eat.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: CityMatt

                                                                      I've never had a problem with Loblaws on Leslie, but sure have been disappointed with No Frills on Coxwell since Herb, Jeff & Rose left. I agree that they ran a great store, and just up the street from us

                                                                      However, No Frills on Carlaw is a great store to shop. Always the best produce, and the meat section is kept full.

                                                                      Another store i enjoy shopping at is Price Choppers across from Loblaws. The store is usually quiet - easy in & easy out.

                                                                      T & T is a great store as well, but a little further than i care to travel on a routine basis.

                                                                      1. re: Jay98

                                                                        I didn't know Jeff, Rose, and Herb were ever at Coxwell. Last time I looked that store was a dump.

                                                                    2. I'm up by the Dress Up Loblaws, Yonge 'n' Yonge. They have just undergone a massive reorg, and it is a major improvement. That said, Loblaws still peeves me greatly by their insistence on the Pres Choice (rarely) and house brands vs the ones I really want. When I want specific brands, I have to go to Dominon.

                                                                      And the disparity between all of 'em is sad. Y&Y Loblaws smaller than St. Clair, but easier to navigate; St. Clair more upscale products but a zoo. Dominion @ Lawrence Plaza and at Yonge Eg are dreadful, but the one at Bayview Mills is terrific. No Frills? No way. Okay, except for dry goods. And Milk. Costco for meat (okay don't sneer at me, Cumbrae fans!) - that stuff moves so fast it is super fresh, and you can't beat the price.

                                                                      It's fascinating that the supermarches of the 70s went boutique in the 80s, everyone went Walmart "we'll supply everything to everyone" in the 90s and now we're heading back to specialty, European style shopping again (i.e. go out today and buy your baguette, and do your market shopping on a daily as needed basis, rather than stocking up for 3 months at a time).

                                                                      Find your niche; do one thing, and do it really really well. Loblaw's is never going to be my go to store for clothing or furniture. Would I go to The Brick for a lettuce? Old Navy for a grapefruit? Lululemon for a quart of milk? It's evident by the stores that have been through the renos, and by their financials (!), that they have realized the error of their ways, but like Eaton's before them (RIP indeed), they may have waited too long.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: The Goddess

                                                                        The NG variety in the huge, diverse Mississauga/Brampton market is jaw-dropping.My biggest beef is the honking price disparity between NoFrills and Loblaws/Fortino's outlets for idential merch. The SuperCentre format sucks--who needs Mimran's rag shop when the produce section can't compete? Storefront/streetfront shopping just doesn't work out here; at best, there are cool purveyors who follow cheap rents and locate in industrial parks but they're scattered and largely hidden. Costco is very tough to beat on better-quality staples like meat, fish and dairy products. No more goofy TV baby food spots with Weston. Spend the $ on smart ground-level management/market research, not alienated, attitude-ridden marketers who want to be the next Dave Nichol. Never could find those "fresh never frozen" bulldogs he was always pitching...

                                                                        1. re: The Goddess

                                                                          ...personally, I think it would neat to be able to purchase milk from Lululemon...just my 2¢

                                                                          1. re: The Goddess

                                                                            Ah yes, Yonge & Yonge - the Loblaws faced with cedar, where they use their fabulous Movenpick era rotisserie to store boxes, while they cook their "rotisserie" chickens in a Henny Penny combi oven.

                                                                            The 24 hour Dominion in the improbable location of Vic Park and Danforth, the old and very downmarket Shoppers World, has produce displays that almost, though not quite, resemble those at Whole Foods. They also have lots of pristine "last day of sale" meats and fish at huge discounts at this store.

                                                                            In so many cases, it's all about the store manager and an outlet changes overnight when there's a management change. (Though some stores, like that Leslie/Lakeshore Loblaws, shudder along forever.)

                                                                          2. I'm beginning to appreciate the smaller grocery stores more and more. There are several local places run by Asians with cheap fresh produce that lasts much longer than most supermarket stuff. It means I have to shop maybe twice (one store, say Big Carrot to get my protein sources stocked up and then to the Asian-run place to get some delightfully affordable produce), but it's better than going to a Dominion or Loblaws and finding no good produce and having to shop twice anyway.

                                                                            Like others, I used to love the President's Report. It's but a pale shadow of its former self. I miss those bulldogs, or whatever breed they were. It felt like I could trust them as they said how much they loved the new frozen pizza. But seriously, Loblaws used to be my favourite supermarket, but the local one at Broadview and Danforth leaves me underwhelmed.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Pincus

                                                                              I vented and spewed about Dominion at Yonge & College in another thread before, so I won't repeat myself except to say that it's just disgraceful. Fresh, my a**. It's such a miserable shopping experience.

                                                                              My personal motto- if you can smell the meat (and you're not in the meat section)...it's time to look for another place to shop.

                                                                              So far, I've had good luck with Loblaws Superstore. I like them. But I should mention that the only one I go to is the Mississauga Winston Churchill location (south of the 401). It's close to my sister's home so it's easy to make a trek there when I'm visiting. I'm one of the people who would love for Loblaws to open a superstore in Maple Leaf Gardens, so it's within walking distance of my apartment. But I assume I may be in the minority on that one.

                                                                              Thanks to Chowhounders, I discovered Summerhill Market, which I love. It's pricey, yes, but I like the quality and the service. The first time I went I almost fainted with shock when my groceries were packed for me, and on another occasion, I not only FOUND a sales associate to help me locate an item, but then he OFFERED to help me again if I needed it, and pointed out where he would be in the store so I could find him. I almost wept, I tell you. It still makes gets me a little choked up when I think about it.

                                                                              I'd also love for TJ to come to Canada. My friends in the US love the place and rave about particular dishes they have.

                                                                              1. re: czthemmnt

                                                                                I have to agree all around with your comments. Dominion at Y&C is without hesitation the worst for friendliness of service and one of the worst for prices I've shopped at in the city. I shudder when I have to go there, and I never buy more than a couple essentials.

                                                                                My Summerhill Market story is identical to yours to the letter. I kept wondering when I would wake up; it felt like I was back in the 80s when customer service seemed to matter a whole lot more, even at the big chains. It was the first time in ages that grocery shopping was actually pleasant.

                                                                                Do chains now offer courses in customer disservice? I remember when I worked at a grocery store, we were taught to greet customers and be friendly to them, and we all did so. Now I find it unusual for a cashier to even acknowledge my existence until they state the price...

                                                                                1. re: vorpal

                                                                                  Re customer disservice: Would you expect any less from a union shop?

                                                                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                    I guess I don't expect people to be friendly because they're forced to be friendly, but more to be friendly because they genuinely want to be nice to each other. No one forces me to thank my TTC driver when I get off the streetcar, but I do it anyway in the hopes that maybe it will slightly brighten his or her day.

                                                                                    I suspect that the problem is that the people at the big chains loathe their jobs and genuinely feel miserable. The people at stores like Whole Foods and Summerhill Market seem to be truly happy to help you out. I think that if that's the case, then the chains need to get their acts together and make working conditions not detestable for their employees.

                                                                                  2. re: vorpal

                                                                                    for what it's worth, i had really great service at the sobeys just east of yonge on st.clair, at 6:30 pm on a friday no less!

                                                                              2. I'm wondering if the "empty shelves syndrome" was a Toronto thing? We live in Brampton and are loyal Fortino's & No Frills shoppers and haven't seen this happen. We regularily shop at Fortino's and always find it well stocked (although it's a given that on Sunday afternoons the selection won't be the best) and recently they have been stocking more unusual items from various ethnicities which is great. With No Frills we get what we expect except for the produce, it seems if you aren't going to eat/use it immediately it will be off within a day or 2. We've also been to the GC Superstore in Brampton but it's just way too big to bother with. We've found the produce and meat at Sobey's to be suspect at best and the Longo's just isn't convenient. We do, however, have the luxury of 3 decent Asian food grocery stores with 1 being a newly opened Oceans. I wouldn't necessarily be buying my parishables at these places but they carry a great selection of hard to find spices, etc. and they are open on most stat Holidays (Oceans was open on Christmas Day).

                                                                                Just my 2 cents.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: cheezy1

                                                                                  Where's Oceans, cheezy1? Nearest intersection? Thanks!

                                                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                    It's located in the 410/7 strip mall located at HWY 410 & 7(Queen street). It's the Toys R Us plaza.
                                                                                    Hope that helps.

                                                                                2. i recently moved away from the forest hill loblaws (which i found lacking at times...especially the produce) - but now i go to the Liberty Village Dominion aka "THE STORE THAT LIKES TO RIP YOU OFF AND NEVER HAVE ANYTHING IN STOCK".

                                                                                  The other day they were out of - get this - ALL mushrooms. ALL of them. How is this even possible?
                                                                                  i could rant so, SO much more about this but i'm at work and am busy so i'll leave it be. Suffice it to say, sometimes I miss the lacking produce at the Forest Hill Loblaws.

                                                                                  I will say one thing about the Liberty Village Dominion - you want cheap pork? this is the place for you. There's a pig slaughterhouse not too far away on Wellington and seeing the pig-filled trucks roll by all the time has the neighbourhood residents losing their taste for pork. Therefore there is always a lot of it in stock and at rock bottom prices.

                                                                                  1. I live in Richmond Hill at Bayview and Elgin Mills, which gives me a choice between a Loblaws at Yonge & Elgin, or a No Frills at Yonge & Crosby. I shop at both frequently, and while I find the prices at Loblaws consistently higher, their wider varieties make it my destination for certain items. Frankly, on produce, I almost always choose No Frills; same or better quality, much less expensive. Basic meats (i.e. bacon, cold cuts, sausage, chicken breast/thighs, pork chops, etc.), I will choose No Frills. Good steaks, prime rib, lamb: Loblaws, even if more expensive. Most canned goods: No Frills. Most cheese: No Frills, unless I'm doing something special, like fondue or raclette, in which case, I choose Loblaws. I'm diabetic, so I can't do bakery, but Loblaws clearly outpaces No Frills there. Fresh seafood? Not available at No Frills, quite extensive selection at Loblaws.

                                                                                    As someone who has worked in marketing, I understand the segmentation strategy: No Frills is designed for people where price is the bottom line; Loblaws is for people who want to get everything (from dry cleaning to photo finishing to pharmacy to groceries) done in one trip. It's a question of how you value your time. If it's a lazy Sunday, I don't mind going to Bruno's for meats, Weston for produce, Old Mill for bread and pasta, but most times, I don't have that luxury. So, valuing my time at $20/hr (low), the extra time required to visit all these other places is (plus the gas/time/aggravation getting around Richmond Hill), it's often overall less expensive to spend time at Loblaws as opposed to driving around to four or five different stores.

                                                                                    Quality wise? I don't think either store has reduced quality or service. Of course, I can only speak for Richmond Hill.

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: KevinB

                                                                                      I'm with you, I don't have the time or desire to drive around to 3 or 4 different places to get all the things I need/want.

                                                                                      Just not going to happen, that is why we need a good quality, reasonably priced store in the downtown core. Trader Joe's would do well here, hopefully they will think about branching out into the Canadian market.

                                                                                      1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                                                                        Hi folks,

                                                                                        We've moved the Trader Joe's in Canada discussion to the Not About Food board to keep this thread focused on grocery stores currently in Ontario. You can find the thread here:

                                                                                        1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                          And now the thread is gone, even over at Not About Food... why?

                                                                                      2. re: KevinB

                                                                                        I haven't noticed a HUGE difference, but I have noticed a little bit of a difference at the Loblaws at Bayview and High Tech in RH. It has more understocked shelves, produce, etc. But it's still a decent option. I don't have a No Frills near by. The closest is the one you go to which is not convenient for me (driving up Yonge on a weekend is a big time waster) and there is the one in Thornhill near the Promenade which isn't a bad one product-wise, but it's a zoo and I choose sanity over a few bucks.

                                                                                        1. re: pescatarian

                                                                                          Was at the Queen's Quay Loblaws earlier and they were almost entirely out of chicken. As in, there were 2 whole chickens and 3 packs of drumsticks. I don't buy meat (or veg) from Loblaws but have to wonder... what kind of store runs out of chicken???

                                                                                          Downhill is an understatement.

                                                                                          1. re: pescatarian

                                                                                            Try going up Bayview north of Major Mac to Redstone/Crosby (TD bank on the southeast corner). Take Crosby across to Yonge, turn right, and the No Frills is right there. Much faster than going up Yonge, which I agree is an exercise in frustration.

                                                                                        2. 10 Years ago I was a regular Loblaws shopper.

                                                                                          Why? Because they were innovators; because their stores were nicer than a then rotting corpse of Dominion and Oshawa Group Stores (IGA/FOOD City); because they had GREEN products, Organic Products etc. when few others did. Because they had the great little movenpick in the Dupont store.

                                                                                          What changed? Everything.

                                                                                          In the inverening years, A&P breathed life back into Dominion.

                                                                                          Sobeys renovated stores, added good premium brands like Compliments Sensations and Organics.

                                                                                          Organic produce became semi-mainstream. Loblaws lost its near-monopoly.

                                                                                          Their stores got bigger, but not better. They became more like Walmart with ever-less selection (in food) and they just lost their touch.

                                                                                          Now I shop at Sobeys and Whole Foods

                                                                                          My nearby store is Vic Prk Market.

                                                                                          Things I notice there

                                                                                          1) They used to have a really attractive display of food as you walked in, cucumbers, tomatoes, lemons, bright and varied in colour. Today this space is usually empty, and otherwise its cluttered with seasonal products or specials.

                                                                                          2) Their Meals to Go Section has next to no vegetables (maybe carrots) that's it. Moreover they don't post the ingredients. (which Dominion and Sobeys have both started to do in their deli/meals to go type offerings).

                                                                                          3) They show no foresight. They put the PC Organic Olive Oil on sale in early December. They ran out within a week. They have not restocked it in over a month!

                                                                                          4) They added all sorts of clutter from clothes to towels to furniture...but made the selection much worse in food! I asked a staffer their who said product variety (the # of food SKUs they carried was off more than 40% since his tenure had begun at the store)

                                                                                          5) They stopped paying attention to quality. My personal peeve is the Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies. So I care about the environment...this means I can't have a Decadent-style cookie? Where's my chocolate chunks? The cookie and its packaging are both un-appetizing.

                                                                                          6) They replaced a cute little candles/incense type section with miles of mediocre magazines and greeting cards. Now the candle section was probably too big. But it had ambiance, style, looked like it fit the food theme (romantic dinner/ dinner party decoration section). What replaced it....geeze its not only not food related, its cheap looking, plastic shelving etc. detracts from the shopping experience.

                                                                                          7) Finally, the staff are demoralized. I know I asked one senior staffer there.....he said he was 'involuntarily transferred' from his old location on the opposite side of the City where he'd enjoyed 20 years; he has less authority now (he can no longer return/refused bad produce), and he said he just got his first wage hike in 7 years, a whole 2%!

                                                                                          No wonder they're bleeding frontline talent and those who there act like they don't care. Tough to be motivated for an employer that treats you like that!

                                                                                          1. I used to do my groceries at No Frills in the Dufferin Mall. This location was always busy and the shelves were always stocked and there were always soooo many staff members working. I never experienced a problem at this grocery store and I shopped there for almost 2 years (the only problem was it was always too busy, no matter what time or day).
                                                                                            I have recently moved, and I now do my groceries at either the Real Canadian Superstore at Don Mills and Eglinton or at the WalMart Supercenter on Eglinton. The RCS is usually fairly busy, and the shelves usually seem full, the only thing is that they don't seem to offer a lot of PC Blue Menu products that I used to get at No Frills. WalMart is nice shopping too (when it's not too busy) but I find the same problem there too, they don't seem to have everything I need.
                                                                                            I am a student and I find these 3 grocery stores to be almost equally in line with eachother price wise. As for Dominion, Sobeys and Loblaws...too expensive because the shopping experience isn't worth the increase in cost.
                                                                                            I do agree with the OP that Loblaws is experiencing a problem, I have witnessed it in other locations I have visited. I think that the corporation needs to come up with a sustainable competitive advantage to be able to stay relative. It seems as though the retail grocery business has become very hypercompetitive.

                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: jen2202

                                                                                              Since you're shopping in my former neck of the woods (I grew up in the neighborhood), I wanted to ask, how is the No Frills doing? I know a few years ago the Chowhounds here raved about it being an excellent place to get hard-to-find Asian imports, like it was Loblaws' answer to the nearby Asian markets (Soon Lee et al) and a weak attempt to hold off T&T which hadn't expanded to Ontario yet.

                                                                                              I know there are three supermarkets that share that section of Eglinton - the No Frills, the WM Supercenter, and the tiny Dominion at the Eglinton Square mall. We know the WM isn't going anywhere, which of the two weaklings will fall? Surely the area can't sustain all three for very long. The Dominion is the smallest store but the No Frills is owned by the weakest company....

                                                                                              1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                The Zellers is moving out of the No Frills complex to a site just west of Warden, probably mid-2008.

                                                                                                So something big will have to happen with the existing No Frills site.

                                                                                                I'm pretty certain the whole No Frills site is owned by one of the Weston Companies. I remember a rezoning app there a few years ago for highdensity residential and retail. I can't remember if it got approved.


                                                                                                Dominion does well at Eglinton Square considing the quality of the store. The did renovate already though, so I don't seem them quitting just yet.

                                                                                                Eglinton Square was once supposed to be redeveloped as a regional mall, with a new Dominion closer to Pharmacy. That plan was shelved, but I imagine changes are coming to that site too.

                                                                                                1. re: Northern Light

                                                                                                  Thanks for the update on my old 'hood. I guess Dominion (and Eglinton Square in general) still do well because of all the senior citizens that get bused in all the time, you'd see all the wheelchair buses parked in the back lot along Pharmacy. Last time I was in there (maybe 2 years ago?) the average age of the food court customers was pushing 70. And it is by far one of the weakest food courts of any mall I'd been to in the GTA.

                                                                                                  Zellers moving west of Warden, to where? Where Wal-Mart used to be before Supercenter opened?

                                                                                                  When I heard Wal-Mart was putting the country's largest Supercenter at the former Knob Hills warehouse site I figured this was the big stare-down against incumbents Loblaws and Dominion which had owned that block for 50 years.

                                                                                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                    Nope. The vacant and massive Wal-Mart shell still exists on Warden.

                                                                                                    Zellers is going head-to-head with Wal-Mart's latest location and moving to the north side of Eg west of Warden.

                                                                                                    If Loblaw's were smart (and I guess we know that's hopeless) they'd keep and improve the No Frills at Vic Park & Eg and drop a condo on the rest of the space for that captive audience feeling.

                                                                                                    I still miss the days when that land was a strip mall with a movie theatre (pre-Cineplex) and actual handy stores that people cared about and shopped at.

                                                                                                    1. re: Googs

                                                                                                      I remember the old strip mall (Golden Mile Plaza, right?) and I even remember seeing some movies in that theatre (Ninja movies come to mind here! Man I feel old admitting that). I also remember the Loblaws in there being one of the last supermarkets I'd been to that still had cashiers manually entering the prices into mechanical cash registers while Dominion across the street had already switched to the the new "high-tech" UPC bar-code scanners!

                                                                                                      What's so fitting is how Loblaws and Dominion funded all those NIMBY protestors and paid off politicians to block Knob Hill Farms from opening a location there. Which of course put KHF out of business since they couldn't get a foothold into the area and never fully recovered from losing that lengthy legal/political battle of survival. Fast forward 20 years later and now Loblaws and Dominion have a Wal-Mart Supercenter there to kick their ass. They had a chance taking on KHF. They have no chance against WMSC. Serves them right -- Steve Stavro is probably turning in his grave seeing that WM on his land, but at the same time he's laughing at the NIMBY's that put him out of business.

                                                                                                      RIP Steve. I'm laughing at them right with you. Now if you could send some divine intervention over to the Maple Leafs...

                                                                                            2. Costco is actually fairly good! I usually venture to Kensington or Chinatown for fruit and veg as it's cheap and with the high turnover, pretty fresh.

                                                                                              1. After reading several articles recently about the supposedly improving situation at Loblaw's, I note that, at Leslie St, things have become worse.

                                                                                                It's Wednesday, but there have been hundreds of linear feet of empty shelves since the weekend, and many were empty before that. It's not high demand Insider's Report items or seasonally interesting foods (like BBQ items) that simply sold out due to high demand.

                                                                                                Much of the yogurt section is bare (about sixty feet of shelving). Toilet paper is depleted. Orange juice varieties are sold out. Ready to eat section coolers are missing half their usual stock. It's unreal.

                                                                                                There are empty shelves throughout the store. Even the cute little "fill me", "inventory needed" and "out of stock" signs are apparently out of stock.

                                                                                                As of 11:00 am, there was actually someone serving at the fish counter - an unusual event. However, there were no fish variety labels and no prices displayed for any of the fish.

                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: embee

                                                                                                  My suburban Loblaw's (Liverpool Rd.) is fine, even the fish counter. Rice is depleted, but that is a new fact of life!

                                                                                                  Leslie St. seems like what I had to put up with in Manhattan some years ago: The Pioneer mart was crowded, messy, poor service, but convenient. The more upscale Gristede's and DÁgostino were not a whole lot better, because they didn't have to be. Fortunately, there were many good small shops on 2nd Avenue, and I miss that here.

                                                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                                                    Is it possible this is because of the eventual turnover of this store to a Great Canadian Superstore? I know it's supposed to happen here eventually, but you wouldn't think this is the way they would do it! Just a thought. I am referring to the Leslie Street store here.

                                                                                                    1. re: Leslieville

                                                                                                      When is this supposed to take place Leslieville?

                                                                                                      1. re: Leslieville

                                                                                                        I don't know about that. There won't be any more Real Canadian Superstores in the GTA. That's official, at least for the moment.

                                                                                                        As to the Real Canadian Not Quite Superstore that Leslie St was rumoured to become, the union has staked out their position very strongly and it's unlikely to happen without a fight.

                                                                                                        1. re: embee

                                                                                                          The other tenants of the store are now on month to month leases and the stores that have left are not being refilled in expectation of this happening. The owner of the bulk store has been told it is happening, but they will be staying there. There hasn't been a set date given to them.

                                                                                                          1. re: Leslieville

                                                                                                            I don't have any inside info right now. The available info suggests that this was, indeed, the plan. The sticking point is that Superstore employees in non-food departments get lower wages.

                                                                                                            The "real" Superstores have many large non-food departments. They sell rugs, furniture, and much more. Essentially, these stores were to be Wal-Mart killers. Loblaw's screwed these up so completely that they have been declared officially dead. All that's left are some seasonal items and kitchenware, which all but the smallest Loblaw's sell, and the Joe Fresh clothing line.

                                                                                                            The union appears to be taking the position that if a "regular" Loblaw's sells something, the higher wage scale must apply. Sources at Leslie, Christie, and a few other stores that were to be converted say the the union cried "foul" and won't allow it.

                                                                                                    2. I find the No Frills in Dufferin Mall and the one east of Oakwood just north of St Clair pretty well satisfy my basic needs. Chinatown is a short trip away. Plenty of good little food shops in and around my neighbourhood (Corso Italia).

                                                                                                      I have found Sobey's to be ridiculously over priced for what they offer. Loblaw's is convenient for the odd little something now and then.

                                                                                                      1. I spoke with a Loblaws staffer recently.

                                                                                                        I was told several massive changes are about to happen at GTA stores.

                                                                                                        1) All Loblaws branded stores are gaining the right to source their own produce through the Ontario Food Terminal this month.

                                                                                                        (not sure about No Frills)

                                                                                                        They expect this to mean fresher produce and to improve their in-stock status in that dept.

                                                                                                        2) Several stores are about to undergo major renos in the $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 range.

                                                                                                        I don't know all the details, but I gather the Loblaws branded stores will mostly be switched over to the new Loblaw: Great Food banner or at least something resembling that.

                                                                                                        In general this is supposed to mean:

                                                                                                        Less general merchandise in favour of more food.

                                                                                                        More enhanced services (like they will cook your meat for you in the store, to order)

                                                                                                        More organics (some meat, larger organic sections etc.)

                                                                                                        I am told the first renos start soon, likely at the Gerrard/Vic Park store.

                                                                                                        But Leslie/Lakeshore is on the to-do list, as apparently are both Forest Hill and Queen's Quay.

                                                                                                        No word on the really dumpy stores like Broadview and that Valuemart in the Manulife Centre (though staff there had been told to expect renos last November.......(didn't happen))


                                                                                                        The changes sound promising, but i haven't seen renderings or blueprints so I will wait to pass judgement on the physical changes.

                                                                                                        The operational change in produce sounds good too.

                                                                                                        They certainly need to work on their shelf-stocking too.

                                                                                                        Who would have imagined such a seemingly simple problem overwhelming such an established company?

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Northern Light

                                                                                                          These changes sound good. In particular, I've always found loblaws produce to be sub-standard, overpriced and from far far away- even things they could easily get locally.
                                                                                                          I do think that their prices are too high for a big super market (and I can't imagine that they'll lower prices after spending 5-10 million on renos). The 24-hour Sobey's and Dominions are almost a hybrid with a convenience store, and I expect to pay a bit more. Loblaws could be more price aware if it wants to keep up its giant-sized store format.
                                                                                                          Sometimes their prices aren't that far off from Summerhill Market. That's a bad sign for a large-scale retailer...

                                                                                                          One thing I do like that they do is the combination stores where they have a Joe Fresh, an LCBO and a dry cleaner. I'll sometimes go to the Queen's Key Loblaws to do one-stop shopping- knowing that I'm paying a bit more for the convenience factor.

                                                                                                          I really like No Frills, though. It's significantly cheaper for the same items that you get at Loblaws. I use the one on Parliament or the one on Sherbourne.
                                                                                                          One thing I like is the produce- the turnover is so high it's always fresh and the prices are great. There is the odd time when things are sold out- (I think you just have to pay attention to when they get food delivered). On the whole, though, I'm happy with No Frills.

                                                                                                          1. re: meld_la

                                                                                                            I share your observations re No Frills.

                                                                                                        2. If you are in Scarborough, I can tell you that two stores recently closed -- a Loblaw's and a No Frills -- because a huge Superstore was opening in the area (Brimley and 401). I was in the No Frills a week before it closed and many of the shelves were empty or close to it. That store is up for lease (McCowan and 401) while the Loblaw's that just closed at Cedarbrae Mall will be reopening as a No Frills in September.

                                                                                                          I was in the Superstore earlier this week and all the walking really wore me out. It's HUGE.

                                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: CeeQueue

                                                                                                            Yeah, but size ain't everything. I was at a couple of Superstores in Vancouver recently, and frankly ... meh ...

                                                                                                            1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                              Wouldn't it be nice if the executives took a look at the Publix turnaround.
                                                                                                              This chain was about the equivalent of a Dominion store.
                                                                                                              The have recently opened their new stores as Greenwise.
                                                                                                              I have never been a fan of Whole Foods, overpriced, and a small organic section,, but Publix have taken the concept one step further.
                                                                                                              Less costly, more organic, beautifully presented food, including cooked
                                                                                                              foods that look good enough to eat.
                                                                                                              My only complaint was their bakery section, otherwise it is an amazing concept for a chain.

                                                                                                              1. re: erly

                                                                                                                Fiesta Farms on Christie has some of these characteristics. Not completely organic, but a good selection--plus the advantage of certain ethnic foods, mainly Italian/Portuguese, I think.

                                                                                                                1. re: Yongeman

                                                                                                                  Fiesta Farms is one of my favourite places to shop for food. Great selection of Italian products and quite a few relatively esoteric oddities. The meat is pretty decent too.

                                                                                                                  BTW, can anyone tell me what sort of flavour to expect from goat butter? Is it tangy like chèvre or different in taste? (Noticed Fiesta had some in stock last time I was there.)

                                                                                                                  1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                    Okay I'm usually the first to complain but I just returned from the Leslie Street Loblaw's and was pleasantly surprised. They had everything I wanted, and the most surprising thing happened when it came to check out. I was the last in the line and once the cashier finished ringing in my order she actually came around to help me bag it up. I was pretty shocked. I have to say, all in all the experience was quite pleasant. Who would have thought! Leslie Street, no less!

                                                                                                                    1. re: millygirl

                                                                                                                      Of course, at any other full price Loblaw's, the cashier would have bagged it in the first place.

                                                                                                                      I'm old enough to remember when the bagger would have bagged it, and (at least at Steinberg's) carried it to the outdoor pickup conveyor. But I digress.

                                                                                                                      That is, indeed, a shocker for Leslie St. Start of a trend? Or just a particularly nice cashier doing something extra?

                                                                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                                                                        "I'm old enough to remember when the bagger would have bagged it, and (at least at Steinberg's) carried it to the outdoor pickup conveyor. But I digress."

                                                                                                                        The IGA in Cote-St-Luc Shopping Centre carries on the tradition to this day.

                                                                                                                        1. re: embee

                                                                                                                          Did our shopping there yesterday. (Leslie St)
                                                                                                                          Shelves were fully stocked and produce was fresh in appearance. Picked up some Ontario Asparagus while I was there.... yum.

                                                                                                                          When we came to checkout, there was both a cashier AND a bagger. Felt rather odd as I have "my way" of bagging, but oh well... it was a nice touch.
                                                                                                                          Perhaps they are working on the corporate culture prior to actually making the branding change?

                                                                                                                          Aside: I am looking for "spreadable" plain Goat Cheese, has anyone found this where it is not already preflavoured or is too strong in taste.?

                                                                                                                      2. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                        I've bought goat milk butter. I didn't notice a difference, except maybe it's less aggressively "buttery" taste (not that that's bad). I also bought goat milk yogurt and it tasted much the same as regular.

                                                                                                                        1. re: merlot143

                                                                                                                          Thanks. I'll have to try the goat butter. I was actually hoping for it to have that slight tartness that characterizes chèvre.

                                                                                                              2. Well,

                                                                                                                The first of the big Loblaws overhauls that I mentioned is underway. They've begun making a royal mess at the Victoria Park Market location.

                                                                                                                So far nothing is close to finished. So not much to report.

                                                                                                                Except, they've overhauled the butcher case.

                                                                                                                Some good ideas, still needs work.

                                                                                                                Aside from fancier plates, as opposed to plastic trays, and a more stylized presentation, they've changed some of their offerings.

                                                                                                                Added a whole bunch of marianted/rubbed meats. Asparagus/Havarti stuffed chicken breast, cajun rubbed ribs, about 6 other items.

                                                                                                                Also new is that their identifying that its Ontario meat, and talking up marbliing (in their pork). The sausages are now in links of 2, suspened on mini-hooks; and they only kept the 2 italian varieties and added a new cheese sausage and and a turkey one.

                                                                                                                Issue: They don't list the ingredients for their mariandes/rubs. Also the chorizo sausage was good, they can't afford to get rid of things they did passably well on.

                                                                                                                The rest of the store is still wait and see....

                                                                                                                Oh, but put this down to what's still wrong with this chain....

                                                                                                                No signs saying 'excuse our appearance', no renderings of how the store will look; no directions on where stuff has been moved to; and apparently the staff (front-line) haven't been told a thing; the changes are done at night, and day staff see what's been done only when they arrive.

                                                                                                                No way to run an airline (LOL)

                                                                                                                21 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Northern Light

                                                                                                                  I have no idea where this store is located. Googling brings up Kitchener and Auckland.

                                                                                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                    Victoria Park and Gerrard in east Toronto.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Northern Light

                                                                                                                    Haven't checked the company's story lately but have noticed that their share price has been steadily climbing (from 25 to 34) since bottoming around mid-March.

                                                                                                                    Ah, some reserach digs up these recent news items:

                                                                                                                    Loblaw Announces Essex County Store Conversion Investment

                                                                                                                    15:34 EDT Thursday, May 15, 2008

                                                                                                                    BRAMPTON, ON, May 15 /CNW/ - Loblaw Companies Limited ("Loblaw")(TSX: L) is pleased to announce to our Essex County customers and colleagues that the Company is expecting to significantly invest over the next twelve months to revitalize and improve shopping experiences in seven Essex County stores.

                                                                                                                    These conversions will provide Essex County customers with a broader selection of shopping alternatives, while enhancing product freshness, customer service and in-store shopping experiences.

                                                                                                                    The store format changes include: Zehrs Dougall Avenue will convert to Superstore; Zehrs Malden Road, St. Clair Beach, Parkway Mall, and Kingsville will all convert to Zehrs Great Foods; and Zehrs Essex and Tilbury will convert to no frills. ...

                                                                                                                    - http://www.globeinvestor.com/servlet/...

                                                                                                                    In a recent column, I drew attention to the newly expanded role of British superconsultant Allan Leighton at Canadian food giant Loblaw. I also noted that one reference made by Mr. Leighton – who is now Loblaw’s president -- might have puzzled the audience at the company’s AGM. It was to the game of cricket.

                                                                                                                    Mr. Leighton referred to the company as being strategically “on the back foot” but wanting to be “on the front foot.” I noted that these terms referred respectively to aspects of a cricket batsman’s defensive and offensive stances. I also suggested that such references perhaps indicated a dangerous cultural gap in Mr. Leighton’s understanding. It seems I may have been wrong on both counts!

                                                                                                                    - http://network.nationalpost.com/np/bl...

                                                                                                                    1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                      Essex and Tilbury were the last Loblaws-owned stores in the region that still had the 1970s brown exteriors, probably leftover from their days as Gordons locations.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Northern Light

                                                                                                                      It's interesting that they are doing a relatively good store first, instead of fixing the mess at Lakeshore. It's even more interesting - and not in a good way - that they are leaving the employees in the dark.

                                                                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                                                                        It's generally always been a need to know world (but you knew that). First in line are the company execs, then the financiers, then management, then employees, then customers. Same as it ever was.

                                                                                                                        1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                          The location at Dupont & Christie is in the midst of a renovation, so far most of the 'hard goods' have been taken out but when I asked what was being done was told 'they are making the store better' end of answer without further, comment other than the Forest Hill Branch (St. Clair & Bathurst) was staying the same...so now I know or do I??

                                                                                                                          1. re: pearlD

                                                                                                                            One thing they have done at Dupont and Christie - for no discernable reason that I can figure - is install extremely high-intensity lighting. The store now has a slightly surreal quality, almost like a tv studio or movie set, and one almost wishes to wear sunglasses ! It really is unpleasant imho. Maybe this bright white light will eventually be filtered or moderated ? anyone else noticed ?

                                                                                                                            1. re: Bigtigger

                                                                                                                              The Bathurst/St Clair franchise has live-in sparrows, which I think is very cool.

                                                                                                                              1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                                mrbozo...that is indeed very cool..but I still find that store too big, too impersonal and hate having to go on the stupid escalator!
                                                                                                                                If you like sparrows (and I do!) there are many living in the Home Depot (Stockyards branch). The last time I was there, they had pecked a large hole in one of the bags of birdseed and we're having a feast!!

                                                                                                                                1. re: pearlD

                                                                                                                                  Yes, sparrows are kind of derivative - definitely a Home Despot registered trademark. In a food store, I figure loose birds should net them a red. Perhaps they've come to rescue the chickens?

                                                                                                                                  If Bathurst/St Clair is what the renos are going to give us, things don't augur well. Actually, Bayview Village was built on the Bathurst/St Clair model and has even more of those horrible movators and more vast waste spaces to traverse.

                                                                                                                                  I can't complain any more that they haven't done anything at Leslie St. They did the service meat counter fixup and they have upgraded the service meat stock. They even had two guys working there. Still sparse stock, sparse selection, and self bagging, though. OTOH, they are selling Tide detergent for half the Bayview Village price.

                                                                                                                                  The staff at Millwood seem to have been told they must chat with the customers.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                                                                                    yeah, sparrows are cute, especially when they seem to thrive cheerfully in what seems to be an alternate universe and are perhaps evolving into new species of birds. But surely they are all over the produce, grains, nuts, whatever, to survive. Where do they get water, which birds need a lot, by pecking at veggies?

                                                                                                                                    The St Clair Market small Loblaws store at Yonge & St Clair, which I frequent almost daily, had sparrows for the longest time. But I realize now I haven't seen or heard any birds or chirps recently.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                                                                      I was too quick to say something nice about Leslie St. Things were back to their sad normal state earlier today.

                                                                                                                                      No staff person was serving at either the fixed-up meat counter or the fish counter. With four people lined up at the meat counter, someone came to the rescue from the deli (located, perhaps, 80 feet away).

                                                                                                                                      The store, while not busy, wasn't deserted either, but only one cash, and one express cash, were open.

                                                                                                                                      A staffer who knows me said I wasn't being totally fair. So I will note that they have done a few things over the last two years. They widened the aisles, added the natural food/vitamin dept, and stopped locking up the shopping carts.

                                                                                                                                      She also thinks self bagging is a good thing and fears they really might take this employee perk away :-)

                                                                                                                                      But I still need to go to a different Loblaws, of similar size and serving a similar socio-economic clientele, to get a large bag of PC dark roast coffee beans, a PC frozen coconut cream pie, or a frozen unbaked challah.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                                                                                        Hmmm, frozen unbaked challah? I must look for this. Who makes it embee?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: millygirl

                                                                                                                                          There are a few brands available in the northern environs, but the one I buy is Lenchner's. Note that this brand is somewhat sweet. They have it at Vic Park/Gerrard (a very non-Jewish area), but not at Leslie.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: embee

                                                                                                                                            Thanks for the info. I will keep my eye out for it. I'm guessing to look in the frozen food section near waffles, etc.?

                                                                                                                                            1. re: millygirl

                                                                                                                                              At VP/Gerrard, it's in a freezer in the bakery section, along with much other stuff that Leslie doesn't stock. I'd say about a football field west of the frozen waffles.

                                                                                                                                              I should be more accurate: it's not teally an "unbaked challah", like the partially baked and frozen Ace breads. It's challah dough, and it needs to rise (much longer than the label states) before baking. Use an egg wash!

                                                                                                                                        2. re: embee

                                                                                                                                          As per the links to recent Loblaws news I posted earlier in this thread: the company's strategy is:Revamping their 7 Essex County stores and continuing to promote their self-professedly successful marketing to the Asian community. Read the posted news releases for more details.

                                                                                                                                          I suppose that the renovation moves out from this base.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: pearlD

                                                                                                                                        I share your sentiment re the store's lack of personality. It does have the corporate sterility that plays it safe while emptying wallets and purses.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                                          I recently stopped at a Superstore Wegmans in Orchard Park.
                                                                                                                                          It blew me away.
                                                                                                                                          The presentations was exquisite.
                                                                                                                                          A feast for the eyes.
                                                                                                                                          The produce was fresh.
                                                                                                                                          The prepared foods looked good enough to eat, and everything looked fresh.
                                                                                                                                          Why can't the Loblaws executives come up with a marketing concept like this considering the money they spend on the ugly, and unwelcoming Superstores that they are creating.
                                                                                                                                          Wegmans reminds me of the beautiful stores in Europe.
                                                                                                                                          Why don't we have a market like this in Toronto???

                                                                                                                                          1. re: erly

                                                                                                                                            I drove to Buffalo to shop yesterday and spent a good amount of time grocery shopping in Wegmans. The selection, prices and even their organic section is impressive. What I particularly liked was the bottle & can return station at the front of the store.

                                                                                                                          2. i find it's hit and miss depending on which location you go to and when you go during the week. jarvis/queens quay is usually the best option. the one at st. clair west is pretty decent too. christie/dupont, that's ok too. i think the one at broadview/danforth is awful.

                                                                                                                            as far as chain grocery stores go, i find them a WAY better option than dominion, for example. i hate dominion.

                                                                                                                            1. I have been disappointed with Loblaws and Fortinos for quite a while. I see 2 culprits: (1) the staff who lack interest in selling the products and (2) the lack of attractiveness (cleanliness and choice of products).

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: lamaranthe

                                                                                                                                I now refuse so shop at the Fortinos in Burlington on Plains Road. The whole store you can get the stench of bad fish on most evenings. Also their Pharmacy was incompentent, kept making mistakes on every RX the family brought in -- my parents are on alot of medications -- which was unacceptable.

                                                                                                                              2. The worst thing about Loblaw's is that they don't like to dump stale and old product. I can see why Dominion markets themselves as fresh obsessed because Loblaw's is just the opposite: they'll sell stuff that other supermarkets would have long since dumped.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: wordsworth

                                                                                                                                  Haven't noticed that myself. The quality is good but the prices seem out of line for anyone who is willing to make the effort to shop around a bit.

                                                                                                                                2. The Loblaws store at Yonge St. and 16th Avenue in Richmond Hill has been converted to a No Frills, which just opened on Friday. I went in today for a peek.

                                                                                                                                  Very impressed. Much larger than any No Frills I have ever been to, and thus had a much wider variety of products available. Let me go through the sections briefly:

                                                                                                                                  Produce - quite large, and the things I inspected - peppers, lettuce, broccoli, etc. - all seemed fresh and good quality. I also noted that they had items that the smaller No Frills a few miles farther north doesn't stock on a regular basis - spaghetti squash, kiwi fruits, pineapples, etc.

                                                                                                                                  Bakery - lots of variety, with pre-made and store-made goods available. The aisles are wide, which makes it easy to move your cart without blocking or being blocked by others. At the end of the bakery section, you see:

                                                                                                                                  Fresh seafood! Yes, fish tanks, with live lobster, crab, and shrimp, oh, and fish. Plus lots of fresh fish on ice, and for those who prefer their food on styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic, there's stuff for you too. That leads on to frozen seafood, where you have many choices (especially of shrimp - every size and style), whole fish, fillets, etc.

                                                                                                                                  Next to that is the meat section, including a full service butcher, and a chest full of interesting but rarely seen cuts such as beef hearts, pig feet, and others which are clearly aimed at the area's large Asian population. Lots of frozen meats, including every conceivable PC product, plus some generic products I'd never seen before (5 lbs of Italian meat balls for $10?).

                                                                                                                                  There's lots more - a full pharmacy, huge frozen foods section, lots of Asian canned and dried goods, etc., etc.

                                                                                                                                  All of this in a very bright, clean, and cheerful looking store, with prices that are definitely lower than at the Loblaws a few miles north. This is just a few minutes west of the 404 at 16th, and you can stop in at Royal 16 for an excellent Chinese meal to round off your trip.

                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                                                    I was in there Friday, too. I was quite impressed with the overall quality of fruits and veggies. I stocked up on the fresh stuff-- mainly because I don't expect this trend to last. Everything was brand new, as fresh as it will ever get, and put on for "opening night". I have a horrible suspicion that in a month (at most), most of the exotic stuff won't be restocked, and what is in stock will be bruised or damaged from being frozen.

                                                                                                                                    The real test for me will be when the next Insider's Report comes out. Every time that happens, I go on a quest to pick up all the new stuff I want to try. And invariably, not only is a good 25% of the stuff not even in stock, but the employees rarely have even heard of it. Now, for minimum wage I can understand not having the entire product line memorized-- but the flagship products that /everyone/ will be asking about? Worse, though, is when those items aren't stocked. Last round I couldn't find a papillote anywhere-- and not only were those a brand new product, but they were advertising them heavily on TV! With that much clout behind them, you'd think they'd have them in stock...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: halcyon1234

                                                                                                                                      Sounds like the layout of the Dufferin Mall No Frills, at which I like to shop (they do a decent job of stocking foodstuffs to reflect the demographic of the neighbourhood as well).

                                                                                                                                      1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                                        I was thinking the same thing. The No Frills at Dufferin Mall is one of the best No Frills that I've visited.


                                                                                                                                        1. re: wontonfm

                                                                                                                                          Agreed - but you have to shop early or they run out and don't restock a lot of items...

                                                                                                                                    2. re: KevinB

                                                                                                                                      I very much like these new NF stores. There is one at Pharmacy and Eglinton, Black Creek and Eglinton and Landsdowne and (Dufferin??)

                                                                                                                                      I like that they cut the fresh fish to order.


                                                                                                                                    3. My wife and I shop at Loblaw’s on the East Mall and Burnhamthorpe. We only purchase dairy, dry goods and some fruits, vegetables. 90% of our meats are from Whitehouse Meats on Bloor St.

                                                                                                                                      On more than one occasion my wife has tried to purchase unpeeled IQF shrimps, for those who don’t know what IQF stands for it means Individual Quick Frozen. What happens is that the bag of Individual Quick Frozen shrimps is no longer individual. It is one big mass of frozen shrimps. For the shrimps to become one mass of frozen shrimps means that at some point between when they where first Individual Quick Frozen and when my wife went to purchase them. The shrimp have become unfrozen and then re-frozen. Now if this happened to one or two bags of shrimp I would say ok ‘stuff’ happens. But when every bag in the open air freezer has turn from Individual Quick Frozen to one frozen mass, and this has happen more than on one occasion, there is something wrong. And just forget about purchasing fresh fish, if the frozen fish can’t be kept frozen, what happens to the fresh fish?

                                                                                                                                      I have other issue’s with Loblaw’s, but I believe in my neck of the woods Loblaw’s is better than No Frills!

                                                                                                                                      My experience with Loblaw’s and most other Supermarkets is that most of the younger staff don’t give a continental about service. In fact I go out of my way to speak with someone over 30 when I need assistance. Now is this because the workers are treated like crap and are under paid by management? Could this be part of the reason why IQF shrimps are one frozen mass?

                                                                                                                                      1. Check out Vinay Menon's column in today's Toronto Star, hilarious but sad --

                                                                                                                                        'I'm tired of Bad Karma on aisle 4'

                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                          "I bought the powder-coated steel furniture, even though the put-upon sales associate disparaged it with a number of references to foreign sweatshops and child labour. ("The table probably won't last," he warned solemnly. "Kids aren't good welders.")"

                                                                                                                                          ROTFLMAO! Thank you for the link- I needed a good laugh. Mr. Menon hit the nail on the head with his comments and his description of surly grocery store clerks.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: czthemmnt

                                                                                                                                            I know, I had a good chuckle this morning too. I love the way Menon used the classic Canadian use of the passive-aggressive "sorry" with the first surly guy, the one who sounded "more like a carjacker than a grown man in an apron".

                                                                                                                                            1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                                              A grown man in an apron shall be the next symbol of masculinity and gainful employment in North America. Nothing to sneer at.

                                                                                                                                        2. My above post will attest that I have issues with Loblaws. However, it would appear that not everyone has issues with Loblaws. According to this article http://www.thestar.com/Business/artic... Loblaws has posted a 32.5% increase in net income for the 3rd quarter and sales have also increased 3.9% during the same time.
                                                                                                                                          Furthermore, this article http://www.financialpost.com/news/sto... talks about Loblaws “Back-to-Best produce program” for the “biggest grocery chain in Canada” has helped to increase income and profit for Loblaws.

                                                                                                                                          Despite the economic downturn in most of the world and the increase in food cost in most of the world, things look good for Loblaws. This unfortunately may not help with our issues with Loblaws. I still shop at Loblaws and until I find some place else which is better I will continue to shop at Loblaws very cautiously.

                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Pastryrocks

                                                                                                                                            And if Metro continues with their across-the-board price increases since they rebranded Dominion, Loblaws stands to gain a lot more market share. We've already stopped visiting our local Metro (ex-Dominion) and have switched to the Independent 2 blocks away because of this.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Pastryrocks

                                                                                                                                              Perhaps they've hit on the right formula. Make you feel like a nuisance and you'll buy the product.

                                                                                                                                              I do partly wonder if it's because it's one stop shopping for the most part and they're always close by. So with the price of gas, people weren't as eager to make multiple stops. Some half way across town.


                                                                                                                                              1. re: Pastryrocks

                                                                                                                                                If I were going private, I'd be minding my bottom line too. 'bout time they turned that ship around.

                                                                                                                                              2. I live in the Windsor area and my store of choice is Zehrs (a.k.a. Loblaws). The A&Ps (a.k.a. Dominion) are terrible and the Sobey's are few and far between, not to mention overpriced. As a born and bred Torontonian I can report that the prices here in Windsor are lower than all Toronto locations that I've been to. I choose to shop at Zehrs for three reasons: small but growing organics section, staff are quite nice and helpful (small town phenomenon, no doubt) and the store is walking distance from my house. That said, I have many complaints. I am apprehensive about buying any fish or seafood. Even the fish that has come in that day is frequently not fresh and the frozen is often a solid block of ice, which compromises the quality of the seafood. I don't buy meat, so I can't comment on that department, but I do buy tons of produce. Quality and supply varies greatly. I've gone in every day for an entire week looking for flat-leaf parsley, only to find none. I do a lot of my shopping in the health food section and have found many organic dairy products to be expired. It's very frustrating.

                                                                                                                                                My store has recently undergone a facelift, which, besides making the displays a bit more attractive and bringing in more organic items, is requiring me to walk every aisle to find my items. I realize that this is strategic, but the disappearance of the overhead signs listing the major items in each aisle is just plain annoying. I've never understood the point of the clothing section in a grocery store, but the new and large Joe display makes the store seem more like WalMart, which is not appealing to me in the slightest. For the record, I've never seen anyone clothes shopping at my Zehrs. It seems like a waste of real estate to me. Expand the organic section more! Right now, only a small percentage of my produce choices is organic. I'd love to buy exclusively organic but that is not an option, either at Zehrs or any store in Windsor.

                                                                                                                                                1. I can remember when I would be all excited about the President's Report and those funky bulldogs. I would actually plan which products to buy.

                                                                                                                                                  Now the Loblaw's stores that are accessible to me don't really thrill me. Metro is a big expensive joke so far, maybe their prices will adjust, but I doubt it. I've gotten into the local fruit and veg stores supplemented with visits to The Big Carrot or some independent supermarkets to get my protein sources (still want to try out Fiesta Farms).

                                                                                                                                                  Did I just burn out on the PC stuff? Or did it go downhill? Maybe a little of both, but the main thing is easy access to a nice Loblaw's store.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Pincus

                                                                                                                                                    Like pretty much everyone I burned out on Loblaw's out of stocks. I go every few months to pick up some stuff but I make the long trek from King W to Rosedale to get supplies at the 5 Thieves and Summerhill Market for my regular needs.

                                                                                                                                                    Loblaw's high pricing and poor quality got me to make the switch. Rosedale used to be for special meals only, until they were almost the same prices on produce but you were guaranteed in stock perfect produce which it made it a no brainer. Moving to King W and seeing the prices at Atelier Thuet and Healthy Butcher made Rosedale prices seem down right cheap!

                                                                                                                                                    There's a great opportunity in our new condo centric King W for a Summerhill Market or 5 Thieves clone. Maybe in 2010 when so many of the buildings will be finished.

                                                                                                                                                  2. I went to a new Loblaw tonight, for the first time in several weeks. I was impressed. It was the well established Liverpool Road store, always one of the better GTA locations.
                                                                                                                                                    I arrived at 9PM, too late for fresh seafood, or meat counter service, but just in time for markdowns on meat and breads. I was happy to get nice looking back ribs at half price, and a few other items.

                                                                                                                                                    The check out was also pleasant. I eschewed the self check out, as this is only good when there are line ups at the regular stalls. Self check out seems to be a work in progress.

                                                                                                                                                    The complaints about Loblaw's new check outs on Chowhound are centred around the take up platform. It seems to be about the same length as before, maybe 1.5 m.
                                                                                                                                                    But there are two exit trains now, and both on sloping rollers. Like the Beer Store. No other food store is using rollers, but they are very efficient, actually better than a moving belt. The cashier was able to bag my items quickly, and also enter the discounts by keyboard rather than scanning a sticky thing. I was impressed at how efficient the transaction took place, and I decided I would return, when they are busy.

                                                                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                                                                      I love this Loblaws, it's my favorit grocery store. Huge, mega fresh fruit and vegtables and the seafood guy chases my kids around with a live lobster... Top notch in my books.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Fat Swine

                                                                                                                                                        Having read a few warnings about surly customer service and just outright rude staff at the Queen's Quay location, I thought that I would be able to avoid all human contact by using the self-service check out.

                                                                                                                                                        Wrong! I had forgotten that I had picked up a reduce priced item and had no idea how to scan it in and also get the discount. I only realized this upon scanning the item in. When I approached the woman who was monitoring this area, she turned and walked away from me. I stood and waited for her to come back and she wasn't planning on making a prompt return. When I thought of just cancelling my order and going through one of the regular check out lines, the same worker came back and yelled "Well, why did you hit cancel!!!"

                                                                                                                                                        Sorry (passive Canadian response). I always think that such an angry person hates her job and has bill collectors chasing her down. Life must be miserable enough, eh?

                                                                                                                                                        But seriously, I will avoid this location from now on and return to the Leslie Street location. Loblaws management, if you read these posts, please heed the fact that you've got a good product but if your staff are like this, you are going to lose out to other merchants.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Zengarden

                                                                                                                                                          Seriously. The service is so abysmal that the self check out often seems like the best option, but I've seldom been able to go through without needing the assistance of the self check out employee, who is usually far worse than any cashier. After waiting three or four minutes when no employee is to be found or ignores my attempts to call him / her over, I feel serious temptations to mistakenly punch in the code for bananas when buying my three pounds of lychees / red peppers / etc. as a service charge for my time. (Note: I'm not condoning stealing. I'm just expressing my frustration.)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                                                            I should have just left everything and abandoned my purchases but instead, I went home and answered the online survey about how I fared at that location. Not certain if anyone reads those things but if they're giving me the opportunity to provide input, I did it.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Zengarden

                                                                                                                                                              Hey Zengarden. I've done that on more than a couple occasions myself, actually - usually at the No Frills by Gerrard Square. I get to the cash and after ten minutes, I'm still waiting in line, so I just drop my groceries on the floor and leave in frustration! I shouldn't have to wait 10+ minutes just to pay for my groceries! Ridiculous.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                                                                customer service seems like a store wide problem a low priority. I go to the loblaws at yonge & yonge blvd out of convenience I have to say there are a few that are nice and try to answer your questions but most act like they hate their job and life.

                                                                                                                                                                One time I was there late the store closes at 9 and I slipped in just before 9 shopped for no more then 5 mins and went to the cash, I gave her a 20 bill and was slow giving her change before I knew it she gave me my change as I was handing her change. She wouldn't accept it and started to cash out the person behind me. I stood there and insisted that she take it and give me a bill before I would leave. There was no way I was going to leave without speaking with the store manager, so I asked her to call for the manger, she tried to ignore me but realized I was not leaving. The manager comes over and defends the cashier by saying she worked a long shift today!!!! With attitude like this from the store mager no wonder the customer service sucks....

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: gogomiser

                                                                                                                                                                  I believe this is relevant here. Unionized Loblaw (sic) workers voted for a strike position last week. See http://www.thestar.com/business/artic.... Also, the Yonge and Yonge Blvd location is pretty much the GTA flagship for MOR Loblaw marketing.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: gogomiser

                                                                                                                                                                    I shudder to think what will happen when Loblaws starts to call the shots at T&T. I like going there and the cashiers never seem to be in a bad mood. A lot of them seem to have a good rapport with their customers. Will these fine people all have to be "retrained" so that they treat people poorly and perform inadequately on the job too?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Zengarden

                                                                                                                                                                      I live in a suburb of Windsor and shop at the local Zehrs. I have exactly the opposite problem from most. The cashiers at both the regular full-service checkout and at the self check-out are TOO FRIENDLY. They're downright chummy a lot of the time, which means that while they're yakking away to one customer, the rest wait and wait for attention. I generally use the self check-out, so for me, when the bunches of produce aren't exactly the weight that's programmed, the machine freezes until the attending cashier addresses the situation. I've hit the "help" button several times to get a cashier's attention, only to find that either they're not getting beeped or they're completely ignoring the call, totally absorbed in their own conversation. I'm all for warm greetings in a small town where regulars are remembered by staff, but come on! The job comes ahead of socializing.

                                                                                                                                                                      I'm also not fond of the inspection I seem to get of my cart's contents by bored cashiers at the self check-out. I buy unusual produce and ingredients for cooking and don't wish to have them analyzed. I never want to justify why I am buying a lot of one thing or another, or what something is used for. Can we just have an understanding that you buy, cook and eat whatever you want and I do the same? I don't care that my cashier hates fish or thinks I'm nuts to spend $$$ on cheeses. MYOB! I once bought a big wedge of Cambozola and my cashier scoffed in horror at the price. Was that necessary?

                                                                                                                                                                      As a former Torontonian, I have experienced the surly cashiers at grocery stores as well. Isn't there a happy medium? Can't cashiers give a simple, warm hello and a smile, then get down to the task at hand? Clearly, that's too much to ask of these unionized employees. Have you ever seen the signage posted for drive-through window servers at Tim Horton's? They are instructed to smile, as well as work efficiently. Loblaw's/Zehr's could take a page out of Tim Horton's book. Those people get paid far less to work twice as hard.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                                                                                                        This is getting far off-topic and I suspect the moderators will be deleting most of these if not move it to Not About Food, but anyway...

                                                                                                                                                                        I get that "happy medium" at my local "Independent Grocer" (sells all the Loblaws stuff and probably isn't affected by the strike action), Metro, Sobey's, Costco, and yes, WALMART. I get the surly service at Loblaws (formerly "Pickering Market"), T&T, No Frills, and Price Chopper.

                                                                                                                                                                        The place where that "happy medium" is the rule and not the exception -- any supermarket in the U.S. I have yet to get surly service at a Tops, Wegman's, Price Chopper (upstate NY), Kroger, Meijer, Winn-Dixie, Shoppers (MD), Giant (PA).... The Americans know the customer is king. Unionized Canadians don't.

                                                                                                                                                                        Needless to say we don't shop at the Loblaws much.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                                                          I actually agree with Tex' assessment of Pickering/Ajax stores, and T&Twhich hasn't changed but fits the Loblaw mold. Highland Farms might also meet a happy medium. Loblaw's meat counter service seems to be OK on Liverpool, but Independent is better.
                                                                                                                                                                          It's nice to know the customer is right even when wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                          Highland Farms
                                                                                                                                                                          850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                                                                I often joke to the staff person that I feel that I deserve a paycheque after having to ring things in myself!

                                                                                                                                                        2. I agree the attitude at many Loblaws stores is very poor. I especially find it annoying that with their high prices they no longer bag your groceries especially if you bring your own bags. Why did stores switch over to expecting customers to bring their own bags AND bag their own groceries at the same time? There is no reason why they can not continue to bag your groceries for you just because you brought your own bags.

                                                                                                                                                          We have just returned from the US where they always bag your groceries and give you 5 cents BACK if you brought your own bags-Now we are talking!

                                                                                                                                                          BTW did you notice the bags are now 6 cents with the HST?

                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: foreignx

                                                                                                                                                            Re: bag issue.

                                                                                                                                                            I put my bags on the conveyor belt just before my groceries so the have to touch the bags. I don't touch the groceries. I will just wait until they bag them (this is at Loblaws or Metro, not the places where we've always bagged our own like No Frills).

                                                                                                                                                            It's usually easier for me as I have a baby with me when I shop. They need to help me.

                                                                                                                                                            When I was 8 months pregnant, I actually almost lost it on a cashier. I was doing a big prep shop for baby coming and I was trying to bag all the groceries. I said to the cashier, "I need some help with this" and she helped but was grumbling. She's the one who looked like a jerk.

                                                                                                                                                            Next time I get crap service from Loblaws, I'm going to the manager. Might not do any good, but at least I'll feel better.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: geoprincess

                                                                                                                                                              Then make sure you NEVER shop at LOBLAW Superstores (notice no "S" at the end). The one at Progress is basically a high end, overpriced No Frills and speaking of bagging groceries, why is it that they expect you to bag your groceries in record time? I mean especially at my local No Frills they just keep ringing in the next customer's groceries and sending them down either belt even though there are already 2 customers bagging at each one.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: scarberian

                                                                                                                                                                Thanks for the heads-up on the Loblaw Superstore on Progress. We've been curious about it but never got off the 401 to check it out. Now I know not to waste my time on it.

                                                                                                                                                                The Superstore in Ajax (branded as "Real Canadian" instead of "Loblaw") looks like a really lame attempt to clone a Walmart Supercenter. It was a mess. Disorganized, stuff out of stock everywhere, so poorly lit it was depressing, and high prices. We went once and that was enough. If that's the best they can do against the Beast of Bentonville they're toast.

                                                                                                                                                                The Walmart in Pickering was recently reconfigured to Supercentre mode (with a huge grocery section in the middle close to the checkouts). That's going to tropedo the ripoff Sobey's in the same shopping centre, and if Loblaws goes on strike, they can go down the same sinking ship with Sobey's.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                                                                                  The Progress location has a Joe's (if you like poor quality clothing), a seafood dept (run by Beaver Fisheries), a bakery and goods shelved in a way that takes you forever to find what you need.

                                                                                                                                                          2. My local Superstore didn't sell ANY #4 coffee filters for several months, let alone the good unbleached ones I generally bought. Last week they returned - in a box of forty for the old price of a hundred. Chocolate rose 50% overnight. The quality and selection remain ok, except for the filters, but prices are soaring.

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: tasteless

                                                                                                                                                              I have been pretty surprised by their high prices recently.
                                                                                                                                                              Many meat items are cheaper at Pusateris, Brumo's and Summerhill and of generally better quality.
                                                                                                                                                              I love the little signs on shelf displays saying "Prices Checked Daily". I wonder what that means?

                                                                                                                                                              1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sumdumgoy

                                                                                                                                                                Loblaw's more expensive than Pusateri and Bruno's? Wow...

                                                                                                                                                                Sounds like an attempt to scare away customers in preparation for the inevitable strike or lockout.

                                                                                                                                                                1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA