Retail excellence honoured at the 2015 Retail Convenience Awards Gala
Atlantic Canada’s convenience store industry recognized industry excellence at the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association’s 7th annual Retail Convenience Awards Gala held at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax in early November.
Sponsored by Atlantic Lottery Corporation, the awards recognize excellence in six categories: President’s Excellence, Emerging Excellence, Innovative Beverage, Innovative Food, Innovative Product, and Innovative Health Food or Beverage.
The President’s Excellence award is given to businesses that have been operating for 10 years or more, have demonstrated excellence in operations, and are clearly viewed as an important and valuable part of their community. Award winners for 2015 were: Al Sutherland, Big Al’s Convenience, New Glasgow, NS; Austin and Ramona Roberts, Big Dog Convenience, Kinkora, Mount Stewart and New Annan, PE; Christine Delany, Windsor Lake Ultramar, Portugal Cove, NL; Heidi Anderson, Regent Street Circle K, Fredericton, NB; and John Amyoony, Triple A Convenience, Halifax, NS.
The Emerging Excellence Award is given to businesses that have been operating for less than ten years and are recognized as a valuable part of their community with strong potential for growth and innovation. Emerging Excellence award winners were: Melissa Mercer, Bay Roberts Needs/Shell, Bay Roberts, NL and Rebecca Lambe, Mom’s Country Market, Dartmouth, NS.
ACSA president hits the road
ACSA president Mike Hammoud kicked off a series of road trips with a visit in November to c-store retailers in Cape Breton.
“Our grassroots membership has always been important to our association,” says Hammoud, “and I thought it was time to get out and knock on some doors to hear what the grassroots have to say.”
Hammoud’s road trips will cover all of the Atlantic provinces over the next six months.
NS retail gas margin review underway
An application for a retail gasoline margin by Tusket Ultra Mart has been accepted by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and a review has begun.
“Unfortunately this won’t be a fast process,” says David Knight, senior consultant with the ACSA. “The actual hearing isn’t scheduled until May of next year, partly because the Board has retained a consulting firm to do its own review and make a recommendation to the Board.”
The last retail gas margin increase came into effect in January, 2012.
“We’ve always had a problem with the process,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “That 2012 increase was based on retailer operating cost financial information up to 2010. We’re constantly playing catch-up with margins compared to our costs, but there isn’t much interest by the regulators in a better model.”
Illegal First Nations cigarettes seized in Newfoundland
Police in Newfoundland seized 100,000 illegal First Nations cigarettes in late September and another 13 shipping cartons of illegal First Nations product in early November.
“Our research strongly suggests that illegal cigarette sales in Newfoundland are unacceptably high,” says Steve Dunne, a senior consultant with the ACSA. “These seizures resulted from traffic stops and were not a planned anti-contraband effort, so how much illegal product is flowing into Newfoundland unchecked?”
NB government gearing up to create contraband tobacco enforcement unit
The New Brunswick provincial government has announced that it is considering establishing a dedicated enforcement unit to identify and investigate individuals involved in contraband tobacco activities.
The idea is part of the Strategic Program Review, under which the government is working to help identify $500 million to $600 million in savings and revenue in order to eliminate the deficit.
“The ACSA has said to government for some time that illegal sales of cigarettes is a serious problem and that the government is losing millions of dollars in tax revenue,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “Our message has been that government needs to get tougher with the criminal dealers of illegal cigarettes and a dedicated anti-contraband unit is a good idea.”
“Contraband tobacco is a threat to New Brunswickers, our young people, our communities, our economy and it undermines our public health goals,” says Health Minister Victor Boudreau, who is also minister responsible for the Strategic Program Review. “To make New Brunswick the best place to raise a family, it is vital that we do all we can to keep contraband tobacco off our streets.”
The government estimates that a one per cent interruption in the illicit tobacco trade could increase taxes collected by the province by $1-million a year. A dedicated enforcement strategy would be expected to create a greater interruption which could result in up to $5-million in additional annual taxes.
The government says that final strategy decisions will be made in time for implementation in the next provincial budget. Hammoud thinks that an anti-contraband unit is likely a done deal since government floated the idea publically themselves, there is millions of dollars in potential tax revenue at stake, and it should be politically popular with New Brunswickers.
Last minute proposed changes in Québec’s Bill 44 shock retailers
Bill 44, a bill to ban flavoured tobacco products and restrict the sale and use of e-cigarettes in Québec is working its way through the Québec legislature.
Two last minute proposed additions to the bill have shocked Québec retailers.
One addition would make it illegal for retailers to accept cash or product incentives from tobacco product manufacturers or distributors or participate in tobacco product promotions or contests.
The second addition would allow the Québec government to regulate tobacco product packaging, giving the government the authority to introduce plain packaging.
L’Association canadienne et québécoise des dépanneurs en alimentation, the ACSA’s sister association in Québec, says that there was no consultation on the additions beforehand and that the government has no plans to consult on the additions.
The incentive ban would cost Québec retailers thousands of dollars annually. More importantly, the change would open the door to governments imposing similar restrictions on any consumer product they think is not in the public’s interest.
Nova Scotia launches online services bundle for convenience stores
Service Nova Scotia has launched its second bundle of online services for an industry sector. This second bundle is for the convenience store industry and makes it easier for convenience store operators to access government information and complete government transactions.
“Time is valuable in the convenience store sector, and we want Nova Scotia to have the most competitive and business-friendly environment,” said Service Nova Scotia minister Mark Furey. “Government is taking a sector-by-sector approach online so that business owners can spend less time searching for forms and information and more time focusing on making their businesses successful.”
“We fully support the Convenience Store Bundle initiative,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “Red tape reduction has been a priority issue with government for a long time and this is definitely a step in the right direction.”
2015 State of the Industry
The ACSA held its 2015 State of the Industry update in early November in Halifax in conjunction with the Retail Convenience Awards Gala.
Attendees heard that there’s clear evidence that convenience stores are taking the convenience battle back to grocery stores, pharmacies, dollar stores, mass, and even QSRs. Emerging strategies include price ownership of key items or categories; strategic store relocations and new store looks that are fresh, open and welcoming; working more closely with suppliers and stores to ensure consistent delivery of freshness; and better displays and merchandising.
According to host Mike Hammoud, president of the ACSA, healthy food alternatives continue as a fast-growing consumer demand and c-stores are well-positioned to capture a commanding share of mind and pocket with a leadership role in addressing consumer convenience and healthy wants.
Hammoud asked the audience if the c-store is becoming the new Tim Hortons café with a multitude of locations, lots of convenience, fresh, open and welcoming store looks, and a growing focus on fresh ready-to-eat, heat-and-serve and home-replacement meals covering breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.
Alternatively, Hammoud said that the c-store industry could be evolving into different formats depending on the local market being served. These formats include the traditional c-store, the café, and a trend back to the local groceteria model, with more fresh produce offerings.
Competition isn’t going away with ethnic stores being seen as a serious potential new entrant in the convenience retailing space, especially as they’re attracting customers from all cultural backgrounds.
And with grocery and pharmacy strongly pushing digital connectivity with customers through loyalty programs and apps, there is little doubt that the c-store industry will have to up its game to maintain “share-of-mind” with customers both in-store and out-of-store?
ACSA raises industry issues during NL provincial election
The issues of Illegal tobacco and beer sales commissions were put front and centre with Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election candidates by the ACSA.
“Odds are pretty good we’ll see a new government in December and we need to start educating candidates on the impacts to our industry of illegal tobacco sales and the commissions we’re getting on beer sales,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud.
“Everyone in the province is harmed in some way by illegal tobacco sales. Convenience stores are the largest retailers of beer in the province and we’re way overdue for a new commission model that fairly reflects the true costs of handling these products.”
Maritime premiers agree on co-operation
The three premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have signed a co-operation agreement aimed at reducing red tape for businesses across the region.
As part of the agreement, the premiers want to move towards a shared date for future changes in the minimum wage and, potentially, a regional minimum wage at some point in the future.
“Businesses are looking for consistency, no surprises,” said Nova Scotia premier Stephen MacNeil.
As part of the co-operation effort, PEI premier Wade MacLauchlan announced that PEI has joined Nova Scotia and New Brunswick’s office of regulatory affairs and service effectiveness, a regional partnership to reduce red tape and streamline government.
“We’re all in favour of more efficient processes and reduced red tape,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “A big area for improvement that’s common to all Maritime provinces is the timing and process of retail gasoline margins reviews.”
ACSA releases results of latest NL contraband cigarette study
New research commissioned by the ACSA shows that illegal cigarettes could account for more than 10 per cent of all cigarettes smoked in Newfoundland.
“This is the second year that we’ve studied the prevalence of illegal cigarettes in Newfoundland and both studies indicate that it’s likely more than 10 per cent,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “That’s way too high a number.”
The research findings are based on almost 3,000 cigarette ends collected in mid-September from 21 sites in St. John’s, Mount Pearl, Paradise, Conception Bay South, Carbonear and Avondale. The work was done by NIRIC, an independent, Montreal-based research firm, who has done more than 25 of these studies across Canada.
The prevalence of illegal cigarettes at the 21 sites ranged from zero to a high of 26.4 per cent along George and Adelaide Streets in St. John’s. Twelve per cent of the cigarette end samples collected from outside the provincial government’s own Confederation Building were illegal.
“That has to be telling us something about illegal cigarette sales in Newfoundland when provincial government employees don’t seem to have an issue with buying them,” says Hammoud.