ACSA – Atlantic C-Store News – August 2021

Beer and wine in Nova Scotia convenience storesExpanded retail distribution of beer and wine through convenience stores in the Maritimes has long been a strategic goal of the ACSA. Recent polling in Nova Scotia showed even stronger adult consumer support for more beer and wine access and convenience through c-stores. In June, ACSA president Mike Hammoud met with the office of Finance Minister Labi Kousoulis and had preliminary high-level discussions on increasing the c-store retail channel. The ACSA has been reaching out to the opposition as well. “There is strong advocacy both for and against expanded beverage alcohol retailing,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “And that, for a number of reasons, makes it more challenging for governments to make strong policy decisions. We have always tried to make our position front-and-centre with provincial governments and our plan is to ramp up lobbying for broader access post election.”
NB c-store motor fuel retailers continue to fight unfair First Nation pricing practices 
C-store motor fuel retailers have been fighting unfair First Nation pricing practices for a long time. The fight continued in May and June with the ACSA and retailers documenting both commercial and non-commercial First Nation infractions. “In tax revenue sharing agreements with the provincial government, a First Nation motor fuel outlet is not allowed to price product lower than the five closest non-native retailers,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the ACSA. “With retailers we were able to clearly document consistent violations.” Non-native motor fuel retailers are hopeful that the New Brunswick government will take a more aggressive approach to dealing with these violations as well as eliminating motor fuel and tobacco tax revenue sharing from new agreements that the provincial government will negotiate with First Nations.
New ACSA partner members
The ACSA welcomes the following companies that joined the association between April 1st, 2021 and July 31st, 2021. To see a list of all our partners, click on the link below: Feel free to direct referrals our way and please reach out to connect with these great new member businesses that are now supporting your ACSA.
For over 20 years, at Benjamin Bridge, we’ve been wine growers in rural Nova Scotia, crafting distinctive sparkling wines and Nova Scotia’s iconic wine, Nova 7. As a new associate member of the ACSA, we are excited to share our latest high-quality innovation: Piquette Zero – a zero alcohol (0% ABV), zero sugar wine-style beverage in 250-ml can format (SRP $3.50 plus tax per 250-ml).  This lively and delicious product offers a creative and unprecedented craft option to industrially dealcoholized wines.  Instead of relying upon the forceful removal of alcohol, we’ve relied upon two decades of winemaking experience and the proprietary processes used in making our light wine refreshers: Piquette and Pink Piquette. This original alcohol-free wine-style beverage is highly crushable thanks to its zesty suggestions of lemon preserve, key lime, yuzu, blood orange peel, and bergamot. For product enquiries, please contact Head of Sales, Gillian Mainguy, at / 902.698.4202 or VP, Ashley McConnell-Gordon, at /403.874.8144.  

The Atlantic Convenience Stores Association takes pride in introducing our new preferred point of sale partner ClearTEQ POS to our members. ClearTEQ is a true Canadian cloud-based POS provider with over 35 years of experience, thousands of customers, and billions of dollars in transactions all over North America. ClearTEQ is excited to offer its cloud-based point of sale, merchant services and retail store management system to our members at a special members-only price with additional complimentary services. As convenience store owners we need a future proofed technology that caters to our needs and offers the latest retail management tools at an affordable price. ClearTEQ’s team have created this product specifically for small and independent businesses and are looking forward to helping our members across Atlantic Canada. ClearTEQ will offer our members its full-featured cloud-based POS for free, securely paired with affordable credit and debit processing at a discounted, member only rate. Additionally, their other complimentary services such as free unlimited support, advanced inventory management system, reporting and analytics will be available at no extra cost. With support for most existing equipment and bulk product import supported by the clearTEQ technical team it’s never been easier to switch. You can learn more about them here. Please feel free to contact ClearTEQ or ACSA team directly if you have any questions regarding the full point of sale system or our partnership with them.
New Brunswick legislates tougher vape restrictionsNew Brunswick passed legislative changes in June that banned all flavoured vape products. If there was any good news, no vape tax was tabled. “We continue to be confused by these total flavour bans,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “Research shows that one or two base flavours are needed to motivate tobacco smokers to switch and stay with less harmful vapes and the federal government came out with new vape regulations in July where they are retaining menthol. Now we’re going to have a patchwork of flavour regulations across the country.”
Liberals still ahead in Nova Scotia provincial electionThe latest poll among decided voters shows that the Nova Scotia Liberals are ahead in the provincial election run with 42 percent of the vote, followed by the Conservatives with 32 percent, the NDP with 20 percent, the Greens with 5 percent, and 1 percent who would vote for another party. ”Our goal is to find common ground with whichever party forms the next government,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the ACSA. “With the current government, Premier Rankin met virtually with me and the president of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada earlier in the year and discussed impacts of the pandemic on convenience stores, lower gas volumes, spikes in tobacco sales, and opportunities like broader access to beverage alcohol through the c-store channel.  These are all important issues that any provincial government should be interested in, so we are hopeful.”
NL retailers challenge inconsistent beer marginsNewfoundland and Labrador licensed Brewer’s Agents, mostly convenience stores, may retail beer manufactured in Newfoundland with these Brewer’s Agents receiving a fixed flat-rate commission on beer sales. Brewers and the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation increase selling prices to reflect cost increases, but there is no recognition of increased operating costs in the current Brewer’s Agent commission model. At the end of the day, current equivalent commissions for Brewer’s Agents are among the lowest anywhere in Canada for agency retail outlets. Worst of all, commission rates were supposed to be a minimum of 7.5 percent and rising to 10 percent. But in reality, commissions have been trending lower – sometimes below 5 percent. These issues were raised by NL c-store retailers in a recent meeting with Finance Minister Siobhan Coady, who is minister responsible for the NLC. “It really hurts given the amount of selling space beer takes up in a store plus backroom storage and bottle returns that c-store retailers have to deal with,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the ACSA. “We’re all working on profit per square foot because that’s what drives financial sustainability and survivability in the end.” Hammoud says that Minister Siobhan appeared to have a good understanding of the issues and promised a follow-up meeting with Bruce Keating, president and CEO of the NLC.
NS gas retailers continue to benefit from COVID-19 margin adjustmentsFollowing a retail margin adjustment hearing with representation by the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association, the Convenience Industry Council of Canada, and the Retail Gasoline Dealers Association of Nova Scotia, decisions by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board included a monthly retail margin adjustment to compensate retailers for ongoing revenue impacts arising from volume reductions due to COVID-19. ACSA president Mike Hammoud says that the decision was a temporary monthly incremental retail margin increase based on the monthly change in volume compared to a rolling 12-month average starting in March 2020. “Nova Scotia was the only regulatory board to acknowledge the huge negative impact that COVID-19 had on retail volumes and revenues and came up with a process to address that negative impact. The declining incremental margin will extend into 2023 and represents significant additional retail margin for motor fuel retailers. We’re really pleased that our industry had strong representation at the hearing and made a strong case for retail margin relief due to COVID-19.”
NL Proposes new sugar taxIn the Furey Government’s first budget since being elected, the Newfoundland and Labrador government announced to the surprise of many that it intends to introduce a new tax of 20 cents per litre on “sugary drinks”.  If implemented, this tax would likely be a first in Canada. So far, there is  not much information about how this new tax would be applied or would work, or which “basket” of products the tax would apply to.  There appears to be a lot of gray area of where taxes could or could not apply. The ACSA is working with a coalition, including the Canadian Beverage Association (CBA) to engage with provincial officials in an attempt to have a logical tax policy and process. It appears that it will take quite a bit of time to flesh out how implementation might work.

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