Monday, March 24, 2008

We Get Mail!

So early last week I blogged about my desire to see family-friendly checkout lines in Supermarkets - where magazines talking about sex and potentially contributing to body image disturbances, and candy were absent.

I also sent off an email to Loblaws (Canada's largest supermarket chain) and on Thursday received a response from Ms. Inge Van Den Berg, Loblaws' Vice President of Investor Relations.

I'll post the email below but here's the executive summary:

  • 6 months ago Loblaws started testing what they call a "clutter-free" checkout aisle in their Milton Superstore.

  • Since then they have begun to experiment with further such aisles in 4 other Superstores and 3 regular stores.

  • They are also planning on converting additional stores, but the number and speed with which this will occur she can't say.

    Now frankly I'm not against magazines and candy in checkouts, I just want an option where I don't have to face those with my family and ideally I'd love a family-only checkout line where not only might I avoid the candy and magazines, but one where perhaps it would allow me to get my bored little kids out even faster. While I'm not holding my breath, in a subsequent email exchange, Ms. Van Den Berg reported that she'd raise this possibility with her colleagues.

    I'll likely check back with Ms. Van Den Berg in 6 months or so for an update.

    Dear Dr. Freedhoff,

    Thank you very much for your letter. We are glad that you like our Blue Menu product line. We have been receiving positive customer response to this product line and feel very strongly about providing healthy food alternatives to our customers. We share your concerns regarding health matters and have publicly identified one of our eight growth drivers as being "health, home and wholesome" focused.

    Regarding your concern about 'child-friendly' checkout aisles, as you may know we have been testing a clutter-free checkout aisle in our Milton Superstore since September of 2007 and have received very positive feedback from our customers regarding these checkouts. Since then, we have begun to convert several store checkouts to this no candy, no magazine design. Currently we have 4 of our Superstores and 3 of our Great Food (conventional) stores using this clutter-free design. We are planning to convert additional checkouts to this clutter-free format, but the timing and full extent of conversion has not yet been finalized. It is too soon to indicate if or when all of our stores will be converted to this clutter-free design, but the customer response to date has been positive and we will continue to monitor response as we continue conversions. Our largest Hard Discount banner, nofrills, does not display magazines at their checkouts. We have not begun testing the full clutter-free checkouts in the remaining Hard Discount stores yet. We do offer self-scanning checkout lanes in 177 of our stores. These self-scanning checkouts are primarily magazine and confectionery free where possible. We are continuing to rollout more self-scanning checkout lanes, with a goal to have them all clutter-free. As you mentioned, these lanes are an option for customers to avoid the candy and magazines in other checkout lanes.

    Just so that you are aware, in the stores that we have clutter-free checkouts, we still retain a magazine section and confectionery section nearby the checkouts (often across from one of the checkouts or to the side). We offer these products to our customers, as there are many customers that do want to purchase them. Therefore we do rely on parents to manage their shopping trip around those areas, if they are concerned about the products' impact on their children. We believe this is an acceptable shared responsibility.

    Please let me know if you would like to discuss this further.

    Regards,

    Inge

    Inge van den Berg

    Vice President, Investor Relations

    Loblaw Companies Limited 1 President's Choice Circle Brampton, ON L6Y 5S5 1-905-459-2500


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