Save-On-Foods wants to be clear it had no involvement in the illegal bread price-fixing scandal that has rocked the Canadian grocery business, but that isn't stopping the B.C.-based company from offering a $25 rebate to customers.
President Darrell Jones says Save-On-Foods will offer a $25 "shopping incentive" to anyone who held a More Rewards loyalty card prior to Dec 31, 2017, matching what Loblaws announced last month.
"It's not an attempt at public relations," said Jones. "I think when a wrong's been done to the public and somebody steps up that didn't do the wrong ... people really like that."
Jones says Save-On was unwittingly connected to the price-fixing scheme because it buys bread from the two bread makers — Weston bakeries (part of the Loblaws/Weston empire) and Canada Bread — that are being investigated by the Competition Bureau.
Canada's three largest grocery chains — Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro — are also being investigated, as well as Walmart and Giant Tiger.
Loblaw Companies Ltd. and its parent company, George Weston Ltd., admitted to participating in the price-fixing arrangement that started in 2001 and lasted until 2015.
Last month, Loblaws announced it would make $25 gift cards available to customers affected by the years of price-fixing as a goodwill gesture.
SFU professor emeritus of marketing Lindsay Meredith says despite being the good guy in the story, Save-On-Foods may have felt compelled to match Loblaw's $25 rebate because customer loyalty is critical in the highly-competitive grocery business.
"Bottom line is, consumers, because of heavy debt loads, are extremely price sensitive. So, if you hold out a $25 dangle, that is big enough to get some attention," he said.
"It's about integrity," said Jones. "Hopefully, our customers will see that and stay loyal to us. And maybe we'll gain one or two."
Save-On-Foods intends to seek compensation from the two bread suppliers implicated in the price-fixing scheme in the future.
With "several million" loyalty cards in circulation, Jones was unable to speculate on how much the rebate program will ultimately cost the company.
"We just don't know. It's so unprecedented," he said.
Customers who are eligible for the Save-On rebate can also choose to direct the credit to a food bank.
Save-On-Foods has 165 stores in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon. It is part of the Jim Pattison Group.
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