ACSA – Atlantic C-Store News September 2020

Political winds…they are a changin’
Lots of political changes happening across Atlantic Canada. The biggest might be the New Brunswick provincial election where Premier Higgs rolled the dice looking to transition from a minority to majority government and pulled it off. This election was the first in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic era and it also marked the first time in 17 years that a governing provincial party in New Brunswick had won a re-election bid. In Nova Scotia, Premier Stephen McNeil caught many by surprise in early August announcing that he was stepping down as premier and resigning from politics. McNeil, who will stay on until the Liberals choose a new leader, has headed two majority governments after the last two elections in 2013 and 2017. The Liberal’s current term in office ends in 2022. Following Premier Dwight Ball’s announcement in early February that he was resigning and leaving politics, Andrew Feury was chosen as the new leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador in August, making him the 14th premier of the province. Ball officially announced in early September that he was resigning as an MHA and that Feury would be running for election in Ball’s former riding of Humber-Gros Morne in a by-election that will take place on October 6. In Prince Edward Island, Liberal MLA Robert Mitchell announced in early September that he was resigning as MLA and vacating his seat. In PEI, a by-election must be held within six months once an MLA’s official resignation is submitted to the Legislative Assembly. Following the last provincial election in April 2019, Premier Dennis King’s Progressive Conservatives have been governing with a minority 13 seats in the 27-seat legislature. Both the official opposition Green Party and the Liberal Party are in a position to defeat King’s government, but if the PCs were to win the by-election King would then have a majority government. “Political changes can be challenging,” says Mike Hammoud at the ACSA. “You can get changes in decision makers and decision influencers that affect our files, or government action can go into limbo as new leaderships, priorities and policies are sorted out.”

National Convenience Week beats COVID-19
Convenience retailers and event organizers overcame the huge challenges of COVID-19 related physical distancing and other in-store health and safety issues to host a successful second annual National Convenience Week sponsored and produced by the Convenience Industry Council of Canada.  The ACSA was pleased for the second year to engage Atlantic retailers to participate in the event which ran from August 31 to September 4. The event is both recognition of the contribution that convenience stores make to the communities they serve and a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish® Canada. And with the presence of COVID-19 the essential value of convenience stores was further demonstrated. That value was recognized by more than 100 elected officials who took to social media to express their appreciation and gratitude for Canada’s convenience stores and the valuable contribution of the staff who operate the stores. Participating elected officials included Prime Minister Justice Trudeau, federal party leaders Jagmeet Singh and Erin O’Toole, premiers, federal and provincial cabinet ministers, and other MPs, MPPs, MLAs, MHAs and mayors across the country. In Atlantic Canada, the ACSA again made a big impact. More than 20 high-profile Atlantic politicians, including PEI Premier Dennis King, and  many industry supporters, including Chris Keevill, the new president and CEO of Atlantic Lottery Corporation, participated by sending out videos of appreciation for the dedication of Atlantic convenience stores for live broadcast on Twitter. More than 300 stores in Atlantic Canada took part in fundraising including ACSA members Wilsons Gas Stops and Go Stores, OrangeStore and Marie’s Mini Mart. Fundraising this year was done through corporate donations and individual online donations to Make-A-Wish Canada national or a preferred Make-A-Wish Canada region. Totals will be announced in early October.

Retail Convenience Awards transforms to online
Facing group size limitations, physical distancing and possible travel restrictions, Retail Convenience Awards organizers have transformed the 2020 Retail Convenience Awards to a virtual event. “We’ll miss the networking and socializing that happens at an in-person event, but going virtual was the practical thing to do this year,” says Mike Hammoud, ACSA president. According to Hammoud a big factor in the decision to go virtual was the support of the event’s main sponsor, Atlantic Lottery Corporation: “Atlantic Lotto saw the importance in recognizing convenience retailing excellence and saw virtual as a very viable alternative way to host the event.” Chris Keevill, the new president and CEO at Atlantic Lotto will address attendees. Keevill takes over from Brent Scrimshaw who served as president and CEO of Atlantic Lotto since 2011. The full list of speakers, in addition to Keevill, is being finalized. This year’s event will be held on November 12. Without the dinner, Hammoud says that organizers are planning on an event that will last about 60 minutes. Keep on eye on the ACSA’s website (theacsa.ca) for more event details.

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COMING SOON: Responsible Gambling Training for Atlantic Lottery Retailers 
Atlantic Lottery’s mandate is to deliver gambling products that meet the highest global standards in player safety and security. As a direct connection to players, retailers play an essential role in delivering a safe and enjoyable gaming experience. Lottery retailers are supported with a training program that covers off all the tools and information needed to comfortably enforce Atlantic Lottery’s responsible gambling (RG) policies. This mandatory training is delivered every two years and is scheduled to be launched in mid-September. The training should take you less than an hour to complete. When your RG training is put into action here’s what it looks like: Responsible Gambling means you and your team are consistently:providing players with information about how the games workensuring players have access to a variety of RG tools (such as limits they set for themselves) to keep their gambling safe and funnot allowing gambling on creditenforcing Atlantic Lottery’s play policy by checking ID to be sure players are age of majorityinforming players about where they can get help if they need it.Once the training is launched, retailers will have 45 days to complete the training.  More information will be coming to retailers soon.
Minimum wage reviews underway in NB and PE
Both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are in the process of conducting minimum wage reviews. Any changes would take effect at the end of March 2021. New Brunswick’s policy is to adjust its minimum wage based on change in the provincial Consumer Price Index, but the government has the authority to override that if the minimum wage itself is deemed to be too low. Prince Edward Island generally follows change in the Consumer Price Index but will also make additional ‘societal’ adjustments. The minimum wage in PEI increased almost 5 percent to $12.85 per hour effective April 1, while the minimum wage in New Brunswick increased 2.7 percent on the same date to $11.70 per hour. “Even though it was ordered back in November, PEI’s 5 percent increase in minimum wage at one of the worst points in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis was hard to swallow,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the ACSA. “A big minimum wage increase in 2021 in any province could be the final blow and the catalyst that pushes too many businesses over the edge.“ Hammoud says that the ACSA has made written submissions to both review committees and has strongly recommended that any adjustment not exceed a cost of living factor.
Retail gas margin reviews underway in NS and NB
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board have both initiated a review of retail gas margins in their respective provinces. The NSUARB review is in process with a public hearing scheduled for December. The NBEUB has not finalized a public hearing date, but it is expected to be in December as well. The NBEUB is hosting a webinar on two dates for motor fuel retailers who want to learn more about the review process and how they may participate. The first date is Wednesday, September 23 at 12:00pm Atlantic time while the second date is Thursday October 1 at 7:00pm Atlantic time. Retailers who want to participate either webinar must register with the Chief Clerk no later than September 18th, by calling 1-866-766-2782 or by email at general@nbeub.ca. Participants will be required to provide their contact information and their language of choice.
Legal tobacco sales surge
Sales data across the Atlantic provinces show a big jump in legal tobacco sales since COVID-19 travel restrictions took effect in March. And there’s a fairly simple explanation says Mike Hammoud at the ACSA: “When provincial borders were shut down, especially in New Brunswick, the main distribution routes for illegal tobacco into Atlantic Canada were shut down as well. Fortunately, illegal tobacco trafficking was not considered an essential service by provincial authorities!” Hammoud says that while travel restrictions have eased somewhat with things like the Atlantic provinces travel bubble, travel from Ontario and Québec to Atlantic Canada is still very restricted and too risky for illegal tobacco traffickers with the border checks that are in place. “As convenience retailers we’re happy to get a lot of the business that was going to the illegal market,” says Hammoud. “But it’s also proof-positive of the big impact that illegal tobacco has in Atlantic Canada and provincial governments need to wake up to the reality and increase efforts to crack down on this illegal trade.”
 
Atlantic Convenience Expo goes virtual
ACE, Atlantic Canada’s popular tradeshow for the convenience industry, is going virtual this year. Running from Tuesday, October 20 to Thursday, October 22. “We had to face the challenges and limitations brought about by COVID-19 and our concerns for the safety of exhibitors, presenters and show visitors,” says show organizer, Mike Hammoud. “The logical solution was to go virtual and I think we’ll be industry’s first virtual event in Atlantic Canada.” Hammoud says that a lot of research went into looking at the virtual option and it looked to be very do-able and popular based on what other conventions and tradeshows throughout North America have been transforming to virtual: “It’s easy to network virtually; to connect, network, share ideas, see new product ideas and build partnerships, just like being on the tradeshow floor.” Best of all, adds Hammoud, exhibitors have strongly supported the transformation, so there will be a great line-up of products and services on display. Organizers are finalizing details for ACE 2020, including the schedule of information sessions. Convenience store owners and managers can register for free at theaceshow.ca.

The ACSA and PAYGOS to provide e-commerce platform to Atlantic convenience stores
PAYGOS and the Atlantic Convenience Store Association have formed a strategic alliance that will provide Atlantic convenience stores with the opportunity to order products from a centralized platform developed and managed by PAYGOS.  The platform will provide convenience store operators with the ability to order all products that are available to the convenience channel from the top CPG, automotive, tobacco and beer companies when legislation is passed for convenience store sales. Brands will be able to market promotions and provide everyday low prices directly to the convenience channel while still using their trusted distribution partners for fulfillment. The convenience store will also have access to return unsaleable goods to brands that allow returns. “For many years, the convenience channel has searched for a business partner that can coordinate programs and services for the thousands of family run convenience stores in Atlantic Canada.  In a changing retail environment, working together with manufacturers and PAYGOS will allow independent store owners the same opportunities as major retailers in the provinces.” said Mike Hammoud, President, ACSA. Brands are very excited at the prospect of developing a direct marketing connection to the convenience channel and to provide promotions and products at competitive prices. “PAYGOS is the only platform that is designed to connect brands and convenience stores directly. Our solution relies on existing distribution partners to fulfill all orders. We are excited about offering a competitive advantage to ACSA members while providing them access to new product offerings, competitive pricing as well as speed to market” said Hesham Shafie, CEO, PAYGOS. PAYGOS is a not-for-profit association that is active in advocacy, education, and training for its members, and engages in many issues affecting convenience store retailers. PAYGOS is a cloud platform that leading global brands use to transact with their retail customers. PAYGOS provides the brand, their sales teams and retailers with the ability to place orders, track promotions, manage and distribute incentive program payments and manage the return and payment of unsaleable goods. PAYGOS is a proven platform that global CPG brands have been in using for more than 10 years. For more information please contact Paul.Kreutzer@Paygos.ca
It’s never too late for golf!  
COVID-19 can’t hold back a good golf game and the ACSA Maritime Golf Tournament is back on at Fox Creek Golf Course in Dieppe, New Brunswick on Thursday, September 24. For sponsorship or participation info contact Mike Hammoud (902.880.9733 orhammoud@conveniencestores.ca).

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