We continue to hear more about opening the beer and wine markets in Ontario to corner stores, big box retailers and grocery stores. The OCSA has spent seven years working with governments, stakeholders and researchers to encourage a move to an open beer retailing market that will forever change the convenience store business model going forward.
The reality is tobacco is a sunset category that customers continue to move away from either due to the emergence of vaping products or, more concerning, to tobacco manufacturer price increases (four over the last 17 months adding up to almost $8.00 per carton) which continue to send our customers to the underground untaxed market. These are contributing to store closures throughout the province.
Let’s start thinking about the new world with beer and wine available to our customers 365 days of the year. There are many things convenience store owners and managers must start thinking about as we work on finalizing how this new category will arrive in our channel.
There are some things that you need to start considering as this file may be moving quicker than anticipated in 2019:
- Are you a member of an association like the OCSA to keep you informed and ensure that you are part of the initial rollout? If not, join one.
- Start thinking about cooler requirements, shelf allocation and store set-up for this new category, beer and wine will take up considerable space.
- Be prepared to support local craft brewers and local craft wineries as this is the commitment we have made to ensure Ontario craft brewers are given preferred shelf space and promotion in our communities.
- I believe beer and wine will be distributed by authorized full-service wholesalers and the OCSA will guide you along as we finalize how these products will be distributed to our members. We are working on your behalf with authorized distributors.
- The OCSA will soon be offering category management updates on products, margins and shelf allocation concepts to help you serve your communities with this change going forward.
- Ensure that your staff training for age-restricted products is up to date knowing that alcohol will be as restrictive as tobacco when it comes to age testing of consumer. Visit www.we-expect-id.com for employee training needs.
- Be patient and prepared as the OCSA works with the Ministry to ensure independents and regional chains are first in line with roll out plans during the summer months.
You will hear a lot of noise from companies trying to protect their turf and jobs but rest assured Ontarians want an open, transparent and convenient beer and wine retailing market that will create more jobs, a stronger convenience store channel and responsibly serve all customers in every community.
The Ford Government has been very receptive to small businesses and are very supportive of the convenience store channel in Ontario.
We should all be looking forward to having this new category in our channel that will require the industry coming together under the OCSA to demonstrate a cohesive buying regime for all alcohol beverage allocated to us. Stay tuned to us as more updates come.
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