Newfoundland and Labrador did it years ago. So did Alberta and Québec. Like it or not, it looks like Ontario is slowly easing into it. And the Opposition Conservatives in Nova Scotia are in favour of it.
What we’re talking about is the broad retailing of beverage alcohol through convenience, grocery and private agency stores.
On the other side of the coin, the ruling NDP in Nova Scotia are against it, while the practice of selecting one private agency store to service a given trading area in New Brunswick has generated more than a little controversy recently.
Everyone agrees that retailing beverage alcohol in a convenience store is a big traffic builder. You don’t make much on the commissions paid for selling beverage alcohol, but there’s a definite boost in sales of other products, such as snacks.
It makes good sense from the perspective of consumer choice and convenience. There’s a pretty good link between selection, accessibility, convenience and sales. And c-store retailers are already heavily regulated and experienced in the sale of age-restricted products like lottery and tobacco.Mike Hammoud, president of the ACSA
Opponents of the broader retailing of beverage alcohol raise concerns that the practice might/will lead to an increase in a variety of negative social impacts, including increased crime generally, increased sales of liquor to minors, increased case of driving under the influence and increased store-related crime, particularly robberies, where beverage alcohol is sold. There is also a concern put forward that the broader availability of beverage alcohol leads to increased consumption and negative impacts, such as alcoholism.
Despite the concerns, however, there is no reliable statistical case that the broader retailing of beverage alcohol is linked to increased crime or other social harms. The Ontario Convenience Stores Association, through arms length mystery shops; have consistently showed that private retailers are more likely to ask for I.D. then the crown controlled Liquor corporation.
The Atlantic Convenience Stores Association supports the broader availability of beverage alcohol through retailers, like convenience stores, who adhere to strong social responsibility criteria.
“It makes good sense from the perspective of consumer choice and convenience,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the ACSA. “There’s a pretty good link between selection, accessibility, convenience and sales. And c-store retailers are already heavily regulated and experienced in the sale of age-restricted products like lottery and tobacco.”
Hammoud says that the selective awarding of retail licenses to private sector retailers creates winners and losers.
“Perhaps it wasn’t so great a problem at one time out in rural areas,” says Hammoud. “But as agency stores get closer and closer to urban areas it’s definitely creating an uneven playing field of winners and losers…the few who can retail beverage alcohol and the rest who can’t. That needs to change.”