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Sobeys - Why so expensive?

I must say that as Loblaws and Metro are trying to reinvent themselves, I have made Sobeys my new favourite large supermarket. It's produce is fresh, they have good organic products, a great fish counter, and a good selection of brands (unlike Loblaw where if I need anything other than PC it's a crap shoot finding your desired brand). Unfortunately, I find it much more expensive than all the other stores and wonder why? Service is just as atrocious and unskilled as the competitors so it can't be wages and I do know margins are small in the grocery biz . Does anyone else find their prices extremely high or know why? Just wondering.

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  1. Their prices are high just because so many of their stores run 24h. The same goes for Metro, but their selection and service is dreadful in comparison. I agree that Sobeys have nice outlets, but you have to shop carefully to get good deals. Their house brand, Compliments, is respectable, but I don't find it has as good a selection as PC. They have a rewards points thing now called Club Sobeys, so you may as well sign up if you're a regular.

    1. I don't find them to be that expensive. If you REALLY wanna see price gouging or high prices for a supermarket, try a Fortino's.. The nicest of the PC supermarkets

      That place is brutal

      1. Yes, I find Sobey's prices extremely high overall. They make Loblaw's pricing seem almost reasonable.

        Operating a large supermarket 24 hours does not necessarily drive up costs. To quote one supermarket operator, "there are night crews in the stores anyway, so we teach a couple of them to run the registers and we can make a little money".

        If there isn't enough business at any particular location, that store likely won't remain open 24 hours. The first major chain to go 24/7 in Toronto, Miracle Foodmart (the Ontario division of Steinberg's), had lower prices than anyone else at that time.

        When Loblaw's went the superstore route, Sobey's decided (I believe wisely) that they should stick to smaller stores and concentrate on food. They are opening stores in places where large outlets don't fit. Some Sobey's stores are relatively large, but many are very small by current standards. Some Sobey's stores are just convenience stores, and some stores emphasize "gourmet condiments" and takeout.

        Since Sobey's is non-union, I can't imagine they have higher costs. With the glaring exception of the kosher Sobey's in Thornhill, which takes little direction from head office, the food at Sobey's is remarkably uninteresting overall and the selection very limited. Loblaw's may carry fewer brands, but they do have those most in demand and they have a much bigger food selection overall. The "PC only" situation tends to happen with products where PC is clearly the best available.

        My experience has been that Sobey's offers a much more limited selection than anyone else. I have also found their meats (including the Sterling Silver brand) of lower quality and their produce the most unreliable.

        I used to cite a second glaring exception, the very large franchised Sobey's in Parry Sound. However, last summer, this store suddenly seemed remarkably ordinary. Curious, I asked whether the local operator had been taken over by corporate. Yes, this had, indeed, happened a couple of years earlier.

        Seeing the difference in the stock, I asked whether things had changed for the staff. The cashier said yes, two things had changed. They were no longer open 24 hours in the summer and they were now getting much smaller raises than before.

        3 Replies
        1. re: embee

          The last time I was shopping at Sobey's in Thornhill, the staff was so arrogant that I swore they won't see me again, and I kept my word.

          1. re: lamaranthe

            Are you referring to the Sobey's at Clark & Hilda or to another one?

            The Clark Av Sobey's stocks, in one store, thousands of items that are difficult to find in the GTA. Indeed, many are unavailable anywhere else in Canada.

            OTOH, they do not sell many standard supermarket items. This is undoubtedly the only large chain supermarket in the GTA that sells Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup and does not sell fresh pork or t-bone steak.

            This store has a very well defined clientele. The customers, on the whole, are not (to put it politely) shy and retiring. The staff and the customers are suitably matched.

            If you don't need what they alone sell, you might not want to deal with it. I go there several times a year for special needs and would not want to shop there every week. However, unlike most Sobey's locations, much of the food stocked here is unusual.

            I would consider this place an interesting chow (and cultural) experience if you didn't grow up in a Jewish milieu. Consider it analagous to shopping at T&T if you aren't Chinese. (Don't go there between Friday mid-afternoon and Sunday or you will miss much of the experience.)

            1. re: lamaranthe

              You could complain to Sobey's head office. Even by e mail, they will take it seriously, and answer.

          2. I like Sobey's for selection and service. Prices are not bad if I stick to the specials, and have them prepared at the counter.

            They have a good fish counter, in an area with no fish stores. The meat counter has a fine selection and it is manned (I don't know why I had to say that!) by a couple of former butchers. Produce and breads are good.

            I avoid the canned goods, frozen foods, and dairy, as I can do better at Price Chopper or Costco. When I needed smoked paprika, Sobey's bottle was 10 times as expensive as the similar McCormack product at Bulk Barn. But this store is still better for me than Loblaw or Metro.

            Why is this Sobey's better? It's on Liverpool Rd., and I'm told it is franchised. The other nearby Sobey's (Ajax, and Morningside), are not as interesting to me. Maybe they are corporate owned, or not well managed.

            1. I find the he Sobeys at Front/Sherborne pretty good, probably becuase of the competition close by with Loblaws, Metro & No Frills.

              The bison steaks are usually 4-5 bucks each and are even better when they have 30% off. The fish counter is great and much more choice & better price than Metro.

              I usually shop by the flyer and pick up meat with 30 -50 % off.

              However, I have to agree that the service is terrible, especially at the deli counter.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Pebbles

                Agree, I was delighted when this location opened because it spares us the nightmare that was Market Square Dominion/Metro, which has a new decor since the switchover but same hostile staff and awful lineups.

                Anecdotally the prices at this Sobey's do seem to be slightly higher than at Metro, to me, but not drastically. Sometimes things are cheaper, it can be hard to generalize. As for the "why" question, one observation about this Front/Sherbourne location is that is fairly small compared to the other grocery stores nearby. Metro at Market Square is much larger and has underground parking; the Queens Quay Loblaws is enormous and is surrounded by a multiple level lot. This Sobey's, meanwhile, only has a bit of street parking and a dozen or so spots available only during no-delivery hours. I imagine that the small size limits the selection and the lack of mass parking limits the clientele to those who live in the area. Economies of scale could lead to the slightly higher cost -- bigger places with a larger customer base can turn over more product and get slightly better deals from suppliers.

                I agree that the service at Sobey's is just as inexpert and slow as at the competitors, but at least they aren't as hostile and cranky as at Metro -- maybe the employees have not been there long enough to develop adequate bitterness. Another thing I will say is that I have only bought one product at Sobeys over the past 1.5 years that I needed to return because it was off -- at Dominion, I used to end up lugging back skanky meat or moudly breads almost every week.

                So far I've been happy to support this new Sobeys -- I like their "Urban Fresh" concept of smaller stores embedded into walkable downtown communities. We need more of this. The smaller size and selection doesn't bother me much because with the SLM a couple blocks away it's not really a problem if they don't carry certain items -- as long as they have the staples.

                1. re: Gary

                  I found what I expected.

                  Some products are more expensive than others. Just depends on which.

                  We live near a 24 hour one and usually the produce / food is fresh (ran into 2 cases of mould) and overall for a quick re-stock it is the place.

                  When we do a full "order" we go elsewhere

                  1. re: Gary

                    The one location that says it all to me is the yet-to-be-opened Sobey's Regent Park. That they would put the flagship store into this neighbourhood instead of one of their low-end off-shoots speaks volumes to me. For that alone I would support them. That they actually manage to carry locally produced meat (Kerr Farms) and produce is the major bonus.

                    1. re: Googs

                      It's not about virtue - of that you can be assured. I expect it will be an Urban Fresh, but we'll see.

                      1. re: embee

                        No, it's about business. I hope they're profitable enough that their doors always remain open. It's the very first high end I've heard of in a low-end 'hood. I'm appreciative of the fact that they're giving it a chance. You don't get much more Urban Fresh than Regent Park. Very gutsy of them even if the bottom line IS the bottom line.

                2. I actually find Metro is the most expensive of the bunch, and their produce sucks. Sobeys tends to lose on selection, because the stores are small; but on cost, they're similar to Loblaws.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: piccola

                    I posted this awhile back, see if you agree on it,

                    When Metro (who had already owned it for a year) decided to rename Dominion to the parent company name, they did two things:

                    1- Rearrange the displays a bit
                    2- Hike all the prices 20-50%.

                    Needless to say Metro has lost our business even though it is the closest supermarket to our house. Never went to Sobeys regularly as it is the least convenient to us.

                    1. re: TexSquared

                      I don't agree. I watched the transformation of the Whites Road store (that's yours, isn't it?) and saw only a progressive change, mostly neutral or slightly better. More bake offs from Montreal. including Premiere Moisson.
                      Good meat and fish counters. The prices are comparable to Loblaw.
                      Prices are generally up about 10%, reflecting a general inflation in all the major supermarkets.
                      I like the store, and find it a bit better than the previous Dominion. I'm glad it is Canadian owned and Quebec influenced.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        I described my findings on "changeover weekend" here:

                        I will agree on your Montreal comment -- after reading all the hype about Montreal bagels, I made sure to buy a bag of St. Viateur when it appeared at Metro here. I was impressed, yes, (I admit, it puts all the Toronto bagels to shame), but still hard to justify paying $5 for half a dozen....

                        1. re: TexSquared

                          I hate to say this in a public forum, but I would pay twice that much for the convenience of St Viateur in Toronto.

                      2. re: TexSquared

                        I agree. I live MidTown but luckily enough I go once a week to Thornhill. There, I shop at T&T which, BTW, has a store downtown too. They carry veggies and fruit that you won't find at Loblaws, Metro or other supermarkets, and often at a bargain price, in comparison. They have a great fish-seafood counter (with live shellfish etc.). I suggest you subscribe to their weekly flyer.

                    2. I'm pretty indifferent about Sobey's. Some things are more expensive, some are less. It sort of balances out in terms of what I buy. Sobey's tends to be a less fun shopping experience because it's a small store with a funky layout (Mt Pleasant and Eglinton). I tend to buy my groceries at No Frills but will go to Loblaws every few weeks. If I'm in the mood for a more expensive grocery store I'll go to Loblaws even though it's further away because it's nicer and bigger (Yonge & Yonge). I usually only go to Sobey's if they have a good deal on something OR if I'm looking for a particular item that I haven't been able to find elsewhere.


                      1. I only go to Sobey's in an emergency. Otherwise, I get most of my produce and other essentials from my local No Frills (fresher and much less expensive), and my meats and seafood from various other sources. I find Sobey's to be sub-par in all departments, from freshness of produce to quality of meats to pricing of products. Why people accept such crap is beyond my understanding.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: redearth

                          I like the friendly atmosphere at Sobey's - and some of their deli foods actually taste home-made even if they aren't - I defy anyone to produce a better cooked pot roast with gravy at $6.99/lb - no wine in the gravy of course, but otherwise it's remarkably good.

                          1. re: redearth

                            Perhaps it's that no one chain is consistent in quality. I guess it really just depends on location. I shop at the Sobeys on Broadview and sometimes Laird. Both are new, large, clean, well stocked and in a word,excellent. The reason I have converted is because 3/3 No Frills that are convenient to me consistently stock subpar produce and meats, if you can find any at all that is - I've learned not to shop there Friday-Sunday which is quite inconvenient. I will buy the odd pantry staples at No Frills, but my time and patience are now worth the extra expense - that's why I love Sobeys (no crap here). And don't get me started about the Super Centre at Don Mills and Eglinton - mayber their specials are good but what a nightmare shopping there!

                            1. re: tuttebene

                              No Frills? Great prices, may be, but their stores are not well kept and cleanliness seems to be something they do not know about.

                              1. re: lamaranthe

                                Even more than the corporate chain stores (some of which are much better managed than others), a No Frills wins or loses based on the franchise owner.

                                The closest No Frills to where I live, Dave and Charlotte's at Riverdale Plaza, is a roomy, clean, and altogether decent place to shop. However, they do not deal well with their frequently long lineups. At non-peak hours, the lower staffing level still results in lineups more often than not. Under previous owner's Jeff, Rose, and Herb, It was far better.

                                Two other No Frills around here, one on Coxwell and one on Parliament, are ghastly.

                                1. re: embee

                                  Parliament's improving now that the new/old manager is back. Still, the Victoria Park & Eglinton location rules.

                                  1. re: Googs

                                    Agreed - Victoria Park and Eglinton No Frills doesn't feel like a No Frills at all. The lines are never too crazy and it is super clean. The produce is even decent.


                            2. re: redearth

                              I suspect your No Frills location is the exception rather than the rule. Most No Frills I've been to have had dire produce.

                              I generally shop at Asian supermarkets, augmented with Longo's if I need whitey ingredients and farmer's markets when time allows it.

                              1. re: aser

                                I used to go to No Frills at Dufferin mall and they had the WORST produce. I've been going to the one at Eglinton and Victoria Park and the produce is consistently healthy looking. Not farmer's market healthy but at least on par with the other major grocery players.


                                1. re: wontonfm

                                  The No Frills in Thornhill on Centre Street and the one at Yonge & 16th in Richmond Hill both have quite good produce departments.

                                  1. re: OTFOODIE

                                    The No Frills at Yonge & Levendale (just south of Elgin Mills) also has decent quality produce - certainly on a par with the Loblaw's a bit north of it, and much less expensive. They don't have an in-house bakery, but they bring in fresh baked goods from Villa di Manno every day. No fish, no deli. For those things, I usually go to the Price Chopper - like Aser says, most Asian supermarkets have some kind of fish counter, butcher, and deli available. I find Metro to be slightly more expensive than Loblaw's, but I rarely shop at either one, unless I'm looking for something particular.

                                2. re: aser

                                  i'm out in markham where we currently have two no frills stores (galsworthy and the one at steeles and 14th). the former is a joke. the latter is a dream. the produce is so fresh and not only that, they have everything. a lot of obscure foods and ingredients that i otherwise would have to seek out at longo's or whole foods.

                                  so, if anyone is reading and you are in the area - take note. this is a fantastic store for frshness and selection....and the price will keep you coming back.

                                  1. re: aser

                                    I'm in Parkdale and prefer the Landsdowne No Frills to the Roncessvalles Sobey's for grocery items. With a few nice produce shops in the area I don't have to buy produce at grocery stores. The Ronces Sobey's is basically a glorified variety store but I'll pop in occasionally for canned stuff or basics. And one cashier who is always there is the angriest looking woman I've ever seen. I'm afraid of her. She literally has a perma-scowl.

                                    1. re: jamesm

                                      I like that Landsdowne No Frills so very much that I actually drive all the way across town to shop there. They lack a few things like Parmigiano, but make up for it with the fish counter, butcher, and the general cleanliness of ths store.

                                      Well, all except for the washroom. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that they have one at all, but it smells like a Texas truckstop in the middle of a heat wave and a sewage strike.

                                      1. re: SpiceMustFlow

                                        The one at Eglinton and O'Connor (that funny intersection where the 2 streets merge) is also a very large store with a fresh fish counter. I make special trips for this place once in a while too because they have such a variety of ethnic goods as well. And parking is plentiful.

                                3. i like to spend some time in my summers off as a teacher cycling between my local Sobeys (mt pleasant/eg), Metro (Bayv/Eg or Yonge/Eg if I am on the subway), Loblaws stores - well, St.Clair market and Valu-mart on Bayview. I need a certain amount of PC products on a weekly basis, nothing tops the blue menu soups and frozen meals that i've found at the other places. the fish counter at all of these stores sometimes puts their wine/herb salmon fillets down to a steal rpice, you jsut have to keep an eye out. certain things like cheese and milk in bag are actually randomly cheaper at shopper's drug mart. produce is cheapest at metro but quality is shotty - i go to good old Badali on bayview for that. random things are cheaper each place - low cal sweetner at Metro is 1.99, Special K fancy cereals are 3.49 at Metro, etc. service is stellar at Sobeys and at Bayview Eg Metro, but we all know about the service at Yonge/Eg metro. for me, sobey's is GREAT for salad bar and because they carry liberte yogurt, and sometimes but baxter soups on sale - that's about it.

                                  1. Metro at College and Crawford is a total rip off joint.

                                    I've just moved from Spadina / St. Clair (Loblaws Forest Hill Market) to College and Bathurst (Metro College and Crawford). What a come down! Most items seem to be 20% more expensive and the produce (what I"ve bought of it) is not nearly as good either. And their specials aren't very special. I think once a week I will have to go back to my old stomping grounds!

                                    I notice they are putting a Longo's near Dundas and University. When that goes in I will try that. Longo's at BCE place is quite good (even if a little on the expensive side).

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cimcanada

                                      Just go to Fiesta Farms, at Christie north of Bloor.

                                      1. re: piccola

                                        Amen Fiesta Farms! Organic, ethnic and original!

                                    2. Sobey's recently renovated its store on Mt Pleasant, South of Eglinton. Lots of new items but I am not impressed, considering the number of nice nearby stores (i.e. La salumeria, etc.) and I find Sobey's very expensive.

                                      1. I also find Metro ridiculously expensive - I live in College Park but I refuse to go there unless if I am in a hurry. Is it me, or did their prices jump recently? I've been walking to Chinatown since the weather has been pleasant for veggies, and I'd rather pay a bit more for the meat at SLM

                                        1. SOBEY'S RIPOFF

                                          Increased Price of 454g BECEL Margarine by 21%

                                          From $3.29 to $3.99


                                          TOTALLY UNJUSTIFIED

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: willywilly

                                            what's unjustified is buying margarine for any rational reason.

                                            1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                              Some persons use Becel for health reasons.
                                              I use it for its flavor and texture, and price.
                                              Can Chester Elegante tell Becel from Neilson or Sealtest butter in a blind tasting?

                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                I used to cry bloody murder at anyone who used margarine. How dare they!

                                                Now, getting older, I simply can't have butter all the time. So every now and then, when it goes on some stupid sale for $1 at No Frills or Walmart I get some light margarine. I don't care for the mealy texture it often gives toast but I find it's a decent option when I can't always have butter or have no time to let butter come to a spreadable temp.

                                                So I'm learning that balancing butter with some light marg every now and then isn't such a bad thing.

                                                1. re: magic

                                                  I don't now nor will I ever believe some collection of chemicals is healthier than a natural product. If you're looking for something with less fat than butter (to which I say, just use less) consider low fat cream cheese. Delightful on toast. Add some artichoke hearts to really increase the healthy and tasty aspects.

                                                  1. re: Googs

                                                    Less fattening at any rate, which does lead to better health. Which is important to me.

                                                    I'd never argue that synthetic is preferable than natural Googs, but sometimes I require less fat - in which case I've come to accept light margarine as a fine sub for butter sometimes.

                                                    I have Western light cream cheese regularly, but sometimes I want a butter flavour with less fat. So marg it is.

                                                    1. re: magic

                                                      Stuff you should know:

                                                      I still say, just use less butter. If you must go margarine, perhaps give Earth Balance Organic a whirl. I mean, my goodness, you shouldn't be consuming Unilever for your health. That's just wrong.

                                                      1. re: Googs

                                                        I use Becel with plant sterol - my cholesterol has gone way down. It's expensive and only a small tub.

                                                        I do love butter - but no more unfortunately,.

                                                        1. re: Googs

                                                          Will def try Earth Balance Organic!

                                                          Is this found in most large grocers?

                                                          1. re: magic

                                                            I hesitate to say since I shop out here in the suburban hinterland at Highland Farms. However, check your local Loblaws or Metro for their products. Both of those stores carry it, but I'm not sure if that means every store. I *think* Pusateri's carries it as well, but why pay more?

                                                            1. re: Googs

                                                              Will check HF, that is no prob for me. Will check everywhere. Thanks Googs :)

                                            2. IMHO, the way Canadian super Markets are being run by management are simply illogical, irrational and totally out of whack!
                                              Take Richmond Hill for example?! In a community like Bayview Hill where every single house is over a million. What are they putting in the area? Not a single store that stocks organic, more exotic and better name brand products! No Loblaws, no Longo's, no Metro, no Sobey's... Only budget oriented Freshco, Food Basics and Walmart. The newly opened Food Basics is actually a replacement of the one decent supermarket (Metro) in the area.

                                              BTW, If WillyWilly thinks Becel Margarine prices are high in Sobey's?! He should try visiting Bruno's!! ( That's the reason why I am deliberately excluding Bruno's from my Richmond Hill supermarket list. The price mark ups are insane. However, to be fair, their steaks are very good though! )

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                Maybe the town planners have some high rises in mind in RH
                                                In my area I have to watch out for wind turbines encroaching.

                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                  Nothing planned in that area!
                                                  Developers with plans for smaller detached houses get declined!

                                                2. re: Charles Yu

                                                  The retailers aren't naive. They just build where there's a demand.

                                                3. Re. Sobeys, yes simply expensive, learned that decades ago on a east coast holiday. Good news in that the Sobeys on Hwy. 50 north of Hwy. 7 is now a Fresh Co with great prices, variety of stock and spacious, well designed as the former Sobeys while jammed aisles had a lot of goods, my guess shoppers were number two and suppliers paying them for shelf space and displays were more important than customers! Bad news if I remember correctly some weeks ago, Sobeys has bought out Safeway way in B.C., as if food prices in B.C. were already too high! Sorry post does mention east and west coast for interest, but the new Fresh Co on Hwy 50 is a bonus to the Food Basics a minute or so away!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Jar

                                                    I find it interesting to learn that Sobeys is an "expensive" brand because we shop primarily at a local Price Chopper which like Fresh Co is a discount sister of Sobeys. No complaints about the prices at Price Chopper, but the availability and selection is probably not as complete as it might be. In our area, the main supermarkets are a couple of Chinese supermarket big hitters named FoodyMart and T&T and their competition with each other keeps prices low. The local Metro seems to be struggling, but I hope it hangs in there as they offer a shopping experience different from the Chinese supermarkets and Price Chopper. Also good to hear that N. Scarborough gets the Richmond Hill treatment even though million dollar houses are less common;-)

                                                  2. If you think Sobeys is bad, try a Fortinos. They aren't even open 24hours to justify their insane prices

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: duckdown

                                                      Sobeys has some good meat and fish specials. And I find their meat and fish to be a cut above the other grocery stores. I've never had a bad steak from their Sterling Silver brand.

                                                      1. re: hal2010

                                                        +1 hal2010.
                                                        I agree their prices are higher than the competition for chain supermarkets but for a lack of better word their steaks are a cut above the rest. With the special they have they cost the same as the reigning heavy weight champ for quality/$ for meat CostCo!
                                                        Also they usually have discount or sobey/aeroplan promo on the Blue Goose line of products which are quite good IMO