Roblaw$ shirts upset Canada’s largest grocer

The Loblaw corporation has previously beefed with Frito-Lay and other smaller suppliers. Now, it’s in a spat with a guy making novelty T-shirts.   

Driving the news: Toronto-based artist Christopher Lambe was forced to remove products from his Etsy store that lambasted grocery store chain Loblaw and its high prices after the company filed a copyright infringement complaint through Etsy. Lambe is disputing the case.

  • The products feature the name “Roblaw$” paired with a grocery basket and a gun. Underneath, text reads “Live Life Hungry,” a twist on Loblaws’ slogan “Live Life Well.”

  • Shirts parodying the Loblaw-owned No Name brand — which read “No Shame” and reference the Loblaw’s bread price-fixing scandal — are still for sale. 

Zoom out: Lambe had previously gotten in hot water, having to change the design of shirts reading “Metrostinx” after Ontario transit company Metrolinx complained directly to him. This time around, he said he’s ready to take Loblaw's challenge all the way to the Supreme Court. 

  • Lambe isn’t the only one selling products taking aim at Loblaw and chairman Galen Weston Jr. Take this “Eat the Rich” tote or this shirt that reads, “galen you suck.”

Why it matters: Public perception of Canada’s largest grocer is nearing rock bottom as consumers blame corporate greed for still-elevated food prices. The fact that merch going after Loblaw was so popular that the company sought to block its sale is further proof of this.

  • Loblaw is finding new and exciting ways to stir public anger, be it the (swiftly aborted) plan to remove 50%-off pricing for items nearing their best-before date or snubbing the proposed grocery code of conduct meant to promote fairness in the sector.

Yes, but: The vote is still out on how much of this ire is deserved. Research from the Bank of Canada and the Retail Council of Canada suggests that rising costs from suppliers, not rising profit margins for grocers, have been the real factors behind food inflation.—QH