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More stocking/supply chain issues at Loblaw's - getting fed up - lame excuses - foil pans and tarragon !

Others and yours truly have posted before on the incredibly aggravating situation at Loblaws when common - not exotic - products cannot be counted on to be on the shelves. But you won't believe the excuse a store manager gave me today !

I was shopping today to make a shepherd's pie dinner (sorry so pedestrian but the guys like their meat and taters !) for 24 guys at a downtown fraternity house. To contain the delicacy I needed to buy some "lasagne pans" in foil - about the most basic item you can think of. NOT ONE was in the empty shelves at Loblaw's St Clair Market, a flagship store - the clerk unhelpfully pointed me to a stack of "tops" which of course were no use at all, and said something about "computer ordering.". BTW there was only one cake-sized pan and otherwise - nix, naught, nothing !!

As luck would have it (mine, nor his) I ran into the store manager, newly appointed, on the job he said for just a few weeks. I told him that not being able to count on buying something as basic as foil pans was illustrative of Loblaw's much-discussed supply chain problems and frustrating as heck. He allowed that there were many problems, but - incredibly - he said to me that he had been on the job so little a time "just when the ramp up to September shopping happens" which he said was contributing to the problems. I observed, somewhat incredulously, that this is hardly a new phenomenon, and surely his colleagues both at HQ and the store were well acquainted with such a predictable seasonal shift of pattern. This did not evoke much response. Nice guy - seemed way way out of his depth.

Nor was I able to find fresh tarragon. "Oh," said the clerk in the vegetable section, "we're moving to Loblaw's herbs so that must be the reason." Sure enough, the former herb supplier is now supplanted by herbs packaged with a Loblaw or PC logo - but it is not a "reason." I asked whether in fact tarragon had been dropped from the inventory of fresh herbs. I may as well have asked for a piece of moon rock.

Frustrated, I dropped down to Loblaw's Dupont and Bathurst where indeed a splendid display of foil pans existed. But again, no tarragon. The clerk in that store's vegetable section solemnly looked over the herbs I had just searched and turned to say to me "There is no tarragon." That didn't get us far ! "Why ?" I asked. "Is it related to Loblaw's taking over the herb supply ?" (That store also had the new in-house packaging of such herbs as it offered.) The reply ? "Perhaps it is to do with ordering."

No fresh tarragon - hmm, Sobey's always has it. No foil pans at a big store. Hmm, Sobey's always seems to have some. Not a big deal - but another nail in the coffin of the once-dominant supermarket chain. It is to Sobey's for this guy in future,and stupid me for not having gone there today !

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  1. I've had it with Loblaw's as well. I went to the one at Christie/Dupont last week and couldn't find any fresh ginger. I asked the guy in the produce section if they have any, and he looked at me like I was crazy (as though it was some sort of outlandish request).

    I then went to the rice aisle in search of Arborio rice. I couldn't find it, hunted down an amployee, and asked for it. He had no idea what I was talking about.

    Strangely, the No Frills in my neighbourhood (The Junction) always seems to have what I'm looking for.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jakhtar

      Its a trade off: :oblaws is trying to lower prices to get store traffic, but they just go too low, and then can't afford a decent amount of stock. Sobey's on the other hand usually has it, but at a far higher price. The days of doing your shopping in ONE grocery store are over. After the flyers come out, I plan my route: No Frills, loblaws, Price Chopper!

    2. Considering that they are drastically slashing the SKUs they carry and have outsourced logistics, there is really no excuse.

      1. I haven't stepped foot in a grocery store since May since I can get to a farmer's market three times a week. I think I'm going to have an anxiety attack when I have to step foot in a Loblaws come winter.

        1. Brutal! I used to be a regular up to two years ago, and now, I don't even set foot in Loblaws anymore. All the reasons I had for going there specifically: PC Speculaas/Dutch cookies, PC Thai curries in the tin, problems getting PC Crumpets, etc, etc, etc. Oh well, we should be giving the ma and pa stores more business anyway and sticking it to these big box stores. Next thing you know, we need to mail order special ingredients like they do in the mid-west USA.

          1. And this incompetent bunch thinks they can run T&T? More like run it into the ground....

            1 Reply
            1. re: TexSquared

              Yes, that's what I'm afraid of!! This Summer I've been doing my shopping @ T&T, farmers' markets and my Mom's backyard. I haven't been to a Loblaws since probably May?

            2. Counting on finding a specific fresh herb at any of these big stores is like counting on finding fresh water in the middle of the Sahara... you might luck out, but it's pretty unlikely.

              I stopped even trying a long time ago. More often than not, I was frustrated / disappointed, and not having a car, going to more than one store was too much of a hassle.

              It's very sad that back when I lived in TO, I had to change my cooking to revolve almost entirely around dishes that don't contain fresh herbs. I actually switched almost entirely to cooking Asian cuisine, as it was rare for the stores in Chinatown to not have what I wanted.

              I just loathe Loblaws; for the prices they charge, they have no excuses to be out of such common items. Half the time I had trouble even locating the dried herbs that I wanted. I shouldn't be paying those prices for such irritation.

              1 Reply
              1. re: vorpal

                " I just loathe Loblaws; for the prices they charge, they have no excuses to be out of such common items."

                And lets add ignorant, slow, at times remarkably bad service to those inflated prices , limited brands/selection and empty shelves. I'll go to the SuperCentre near my office for advertised sale items but that's it for me. Loblaws wants the high-end branding with a discount mentality.

              2. I don't understand. Are you saying the St Clair Market is a flagship store just because it's at the bottom of the Weston building? The St Clair Market is not a typical Loblaw store. For one, it's teeny-weeny compared to a normal Loblaw store.

                I go there regularly and it's great for fresh fish and meats and good produce but it's definitely not a typical "warehouse" -type Loblaw store that offers everything. Fresh tarragon I would expect them to have but not necessarily a range of foil trays.

                By the way, there's a Sobey's just down the street that stocks all kind of foil products. Don't know about the fresh tarragon.

                12 Replies
                1. re: JamieK

                  I suspect the poster was referring to the St Clair & Bathurst store.
                  The St Clair Market is a flagship Weston vanity store (without being terribly convenient).

                  1. re: JamieK

                    The St. Clair market is a remnant of their flagship foodie store of the 80's, Ziggy's, and that is just one more name they bought and ran into the ground.
                    For Weston it makes sense: buy up as much competition as possible, destroy it, and grow in your own mediocre way.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      I meant the Forest Hill Market, Bathurst & St Clair, sorry.

                      1. re: Bigtigger

                        Not to make ANY excuses for Loblaws, because I've certainly experienced my fair share of frustration with them, but I bought a couple of large foil pans at Forest Hill Market about two weeks in preparation for the Jewish holidays which are this weekend - perhaps that's the reason that this location didn't have any in stock.

                        In fact, my frustration with Loblaws has led me to shop more at Fiesta Farms but when I went there this past weekend, they didn't have any asparagus, so it's not just Loblaws who has supply issues. Once again, NOT making excuses for Loblaws though.

                    2. re: JamieK

                      Even the big "Warehouse"-type stores are carrying far few items. Loblaws has been systematically eliminating slower moving items, particularly when they offer a No Name or PC item that is essentially the same. I'd say that about half the time I've gone to Loblaws, which is becoming less frequent these days, I've walked out with no more than half of the items I intended to buy, either because they no longer carry them, or because the item was out of stock.

                      1. re: OTFOODIE

                        Exactly what I fear will happen to T&T once Loblaws start to micromanage it. You'll start seeing the selection get cut down and more PC/NoName crap move in. Once you see that, start looking for another Asian market to frequent because that spells the end of T&T. There's an independent one near our house (T.Phat in Pickering) but it has such a nasty stench of rotten fish we don't mind driving to T&T to avoid it!

                        1. re: TexSquared

                          "more PC/NoName crap "

                          Why would you say that? There are plenty of PC products that are not only good, they're not matched anywhere. The Memories sauces - especially the Canton plum sauce - the "Just Peanuts" crunchy peanut butter, the Tangerine/Grapefruit Cool Delight drink mix; all of these are better (as in tastier and less expensive) than the alternatives. No name products have their hits and misses, but canned corn, trail mix, and turkey TV dinners have all worked for me.

                          I have a choice - within 5 km, I have a Loblaws, a small No Frills, a huge No Frills, and a Great Canadian Superstore (plus lots of others). The big No Frills (Yonge and 16th) has never been out of ANYTHING I'm looking for, and often has things (beef hearts?) I've never looked for. The small NF is OK for many things (and is more convenient). I only go to the GCS or Loblaws if I'm looking for something particular, such as currant jelly to go with my pate. Never let me down.

                          1. re: FrankD

                            They are not afraid of trying unique products. Memories of Montego is fresher than Grace's jerk sauce. Memories of Dad has its following (haven't tried, but it's on my list). PC Organics water white honey from Peace River; Utopia 's great canned tomatoes from Kerr 's of Chatham; PC HE cold water detergent (Tide doesn't have that)...
                            the list goes on, and I'm glad we have this resource.

                            1. re: FrankD

                              Let me ask this, if you're shopping at T&T are you there to buy "Memories of..." or are you there to buy the genuine article shipped in from Asia?

                              When Loblaws starts to replace the genuine article with their clones, T&T has lost my business.

                              1. re: TexSquared

                                Most Loblaws with E. Asian clientele stock both:"Memories" for the gwailo/gaijin; and the real deal for those who know better. Doubt T&T will be inundated with PC merch.

                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                  Well, my 100% Chinese wife would be happy to know you consider her a gwailo. She happens to think that many of the PC Memories sauces are very good. And when she shops at T&T, it's more for fresh seafood and vegetables than it is for canned/jarred goods. As a matter of fact, she tends to be wary of foods packaged in China; for some reason, she thinks that their sanitation standards leave something to be desired.

                      2. I completely agree with your sentiments... it's common for me to not find what I am looking for on the shelves.

                        They seem to have some wacky purchasing ideas... one day I walked into the store at Vic Park and Gerrard to find FRESH porcini mushrooms!! 2 huge specimens in a wrapped package for around $6. This lasted a week... then they were gone.

                        The Westons giveth and they taketh away. ;-(

                        1. Glad to know I'm not the only one raging at not being able to find fresh tarragon. Also, the problem extends to Queen's Quay.

                          Actually, I was trying to find fresh tarragon and neither Harvest Wagon nor Summerhill had it either...

                          So I have to shop at 6 grocery stores now to find everything? T&T is great, but you need another store for certain ingredients. Thieves kill you on price and don't always have everything. Metro is expensive and horrible, as is Fresh & Wild. So Fiesta is it, except they're not reliable either. Wonderful.

                          Speaking of T&T - Cherry street is repeatedly having problems getting edible fresh tuna. Past 2 weeks it's looked like roast beef that's gone off (slimy and an opalescent green shine to the cut edge). Guys behind the counter warned me off from considering it.

                          Sobey's on Spadina is rather pricey and not large enough to give a good selection. Maybe Longo's beside the ACC will eb the answer when it's finished.

                          1. Sounds like the exception proving the rule. Funny but I'm not having that problem in the westend GTA Loblaws/NoFrills outlets. Where I've seen change--arguably for the worse--is in the "rationalization" of the mega SuperStore units, where inventory range in most categories has been reduced by about 25% or more. These wanking big stores now look bare and resemble WalMarts with the same pallorous lighting and zombie staff.

                            1. Depending where you live or how far you are willing to travel, I suggest T&T at The Promenade. You'll find there everything you need, and more. (BTW I am not working for the store...)

                              1. I was just going to start my own rant when I stumbled across this one. In my area (upper beaches), I have the luxury of having several Grocery chains handy (Loblaws, Metro AND Sobeys). The Loblaws is definately the most handy for me but I need to stop going there. The reason...lack of availability on virtually all sale goods. It seems that the sale shelf is always empty (whether on Monday or end of week), but the ones beside it are always well stocked. Could there be a bait and switch happening here? My most recent example was an "in Store" special on fruit bars that the kids love. Regular $12 on for $8.50. Shelf empty. None in storeroom and the completely non-friendly staff at Vic Park and Gerrard wouldn't even grace me with a smile, hello or apology. They just said not available (2 different people). Guess what? No rainchecks either because it's an instore special. I'm moving all of my business to Sobeys. They may not have everything all of the time, but the store is clean and friendly.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Freakazoid Glazermabobber

                                  That's one of Loblaw's best stores, and Phil, the long time manager, seems to be a decent guy. I'm surprised that you found the staff (assuming you could find any staff on the floor) particularly hostile. I've found them generally pleasant, if not necessarily able to do anything terribly helpful.

                                  That store is a much better place to shop than the Leslie St Loblaw's, the only one really convenient to where I live. You live in a very convenient area for mainstream grocery shopping, with that Loblaw's, one of Metro's best stores, and a Price Chopper about one minute apart.

                                  As at every Loblaw's, the merchandise range shrinks visibly by the week.I don't think anyone at the Loblaw store level can do anything about the inventory these days. It's very different from the time when a good store manager would try to order in almost anything reasonable.

                                  I'll always remember the pallet of Rinehart's seltzer that stood in an aisle (there was no room on the head-office plan-o-grammed shelves) at the Moore Av Loblaw's - ordered every few weeks by the store manager just for me. It would always sell out, but it was only there because I asked for it. They simply won't do this any more. Neither will Metro or Sobey's.

                                  Everyone has their own perceptions about supermarkets, and it is universally true that a new store manager can change staff morale, and the feeling of the store (for better or worse), almost overnight. I have been to the Danforth Sobey's. I don't find it either cleaner or friendlier than that particular Loblaw's (both are okay by Toronto standards). I have been to other Sobey's locations and did not find the service particularly friendly.

                                  What you will find at any Sobey's is a much narrower range of merchandise than at the Gerrard Loblaw's, sold at significantly higher overall prices. Sobey's meat and produce are inferior. Their fish, though limited, may be better.

                                  In the case of "in store specials", it's important to know why that special exists. At one time, store managers could have these promotions at their discretion. They would generally put out a few weekly loss leaders, advertised locally if at all, that would draw people to their particular store and (hopefully) build long term loyalty. These would vary drastically from store to store within a chain.

                                  While these bargains do still exist, today's in store specials are more typically a clearout of overstocked items, or of bulk quantities damaged at the store. It's cheaper to sell off these things at deep discounts than to ship them back.

                                  1. re: embee

                                    Ultimately, kvetching about how the Westonette ru(i)ns the store is like kvetching about the weather--no one's listening!

                                    1. re: Kagemusha

                                      Many are listening - just not Galen Jr (or, more importantly, Allan Leighton).

                                    2. re: embee

                                      I appreciate that I am at least able to get a raincheck on Loblaws flyer-advertised sales. No Frills doesn't do rainchecks, and they are almost always out of stock on major deals. It seems to me that No Frills also doesn't have their flyers readily available in the store, and the sale items seem to be hidden or unmarked, so that I often have to double-check, "Isn't this supposed to be on sale this week?"

                                      Personally, I like the Loblaws at Victoria Park & Gerrard. And the Price Chopper, too. Has Loblaws failed to have an item in stock? Yes. But what grocery store/restaurant/department store/liquor store hasn't had similar issues?

                                  2. The Loblaws in Pickering is fantastic.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Crispy skin

                                      From the few times I've been there, I have to agree. More often than that I shop at the superstore in Ajax and I absolutely hate the produce section, there isn't anything to be found!
                                      Thankfully the Ajax no frills is really outstanding. The one at port union as well.

                                      1. re: BamiaWruz

                                        Agree about the produce in the Ajax Superstore. Completely stopped shopping there a couple of years ago now. Half rotten produce on the shelves. I guess they don't think people in Ajax need to eat their veggies.

                                        1. re: buster67

                                          WOW, I'm glad someone else noticed. So many people shop there and sometimes I wonder if it's just me being pickey or something, but the prices are so high and the produce as you said "half rotten" that you wonder what's with them!!
                                          The clearance or sale shelf at loblaws holds foods that are completely inedible and yet for close to the full price.
                                          I've managed to pick up perfect fruits and veggies from the same type of shelf at the no frills which were in PERFECT condition for a steal!

                                          I've never seen a store with such a terrible produce dept. the superstores in both Whitby and Oshawa seem so much nicer on the odd occasion that I visit, what is it with Ajax??

                                          Is it even worth it to complain :S At least we have a good no frills and I don't mind making trips to the one at port union too every now and then.

                                          1. re: BamiaWruz

                                            Not worth it to complain. They sold us "live" mussels from the fish counter that were off (they wouldn't close when tapped) and when we returned them, they said something like, "well they must be fresh becaue we just took them out of the fridge". Well then they were in the fridge dead! Insert blank look.

                                            This is the type of response we got and it happened more than once. Eventually we just stopped going there at all and now shop at Sobeys for most general grocery items.

                                            1. re: buster67

                                              Terrible!

                                              Don't you find sobeys expensive though? If you're happy with it and the prices then that's great, I'm not judging. I'm only asking :) Do you shop anywhere else or at sobeys exclusively?

                                    2. I've long been a hater-of-Loblaws but my last two trips to Queen's Quay (both out of desperation) have proved surprisingly fruitful.

                                      Respectable produce (including seasonal Ontario offerings), no gaping holes on the shelves (which have ben totally frustrating in past), acceptable meat selections... and gotta say I love having the LCBO on site.

                                      I'm not ready to exonerate Loblaw's of general crap-ness and I'm still anxious about the fate of T&T in Loblaws' hands, but I have to admit that I've seen improvement in recent months.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Rabbit

                                        QQ's summer produce was much better this year. They do seem to be getting a handle on produce, so there's at least one less reason to go to Thieves. Still lots of others (decent hunk of Parm... the PC stuff is horrible and the same price as good P-R from ATB/Pusateri's).

                                        This isn't rocket science... Longo's can't come soon enough!

                                        1. re: preppycuisine

                                          The good thing about the Loblaws on QQ is that it's down the street from SLM. I go to SLM for the good stuff (meat, fish, fruits & veg, cheese, coffee, bread, fresh pasta, etc.). then to Loblaws for the stuff on sale and bulk items. Plus they're not usually out of stuff I'm looking for, have a bigger selection, and they're lower priced than Sobeys on QQ and Metro on Front. And T&T is close by for even cheaper stuff and specific asian things.