Sobeys announces price freeze between November, January 2024

By Sonia Aslam and Hana Mae Nassar

As the cost of living continues to add pressure to many Canadians’ household budgets, a grocery retailing giant says it’s freezing prices on thousands of products — but only until the new year.

Empire, which owns Sobeys, tells CityNews it has “historically” been a practice of the company to “freeze the vast majority of our prices on all packaged products between November and January, in partnership with our supplier partners.”

“This practice has never been an external or public commitment, nor was it a mandatory practice internally,” Empire spokesperson Andrew Walker said in an email. “Typically, we would hold prices on approximately 90 per cent of packaged products during this time, subject to exceptions in select instances.”

However, Walker says this year, Empire has “expanded this practice,” freezing prices on what he describes as “the totality of our packaged product portfolio (approximately 20,000 items) between November 2023 and January 2024.”

Walker would not say which products specifically the price freeze is applying to, though he says this move will cancel increases on about 1,700 additional products the company “initially planned” to hike during this time.

“This action will remain in place regardless of any internal or external conditions that might cause those prices to go up,” Walker explained in the email.

In addition to the price freeze, Walker says Empire has “significant and meaningful plans” currently in the works to stabilize prices past February 2024. More details would be available at a later date, when Empire says it is “able to do so from a competition standpoint.”

In addition to operating stores by the same name, Sobeys also operates the likes of Safeway, IGA, Thrifty Foods, and more.

Statistics Canada: Grocery price increases continued to slow in October

News of Empire’s price freezing comes as Statistics Canada released its inflation data for October.

In its update Tuesday, the agency said the inflation rate slowed last month to 3.1 per cent on a year-over-year basis, down from 3.8 per cent in September.

On a monthly basis, the consumer price index was up 3.6 per cent in October, with mortgage interest costs, food purchased from stores, and rent some of the driving factors.

Statistics Canada said while grocery prices continued to rise faster than overall inflation, their pace of increases continued to slow. Grocery prices were up 5.4 per cent in October compared with a 5.8 per cent move higher in September.

“We are pleased to see that food inflation, as evidenced by today’s Statistics Canada report, continues to decline and this gap continues to shrink,” Walker said.

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