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Saskatchewan restarts emergency grants for small businesses hit by COVID-19 rules

The Saskatchewan government is reviving an emergency grant program for small businesses that have been hit by restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

The province will begin accepting applications for its small business emergency payment program next week until the end of January.

Businesses with fewer than 500 employees can apply to receive a grant of 15 per cent of their monthly sales revenue recorded before the pandemic arrived in March, to a maximum of $5,000.

“What we are hearing is that the measures that we have taken do have a significant impact on a number of businesses, but in particular on the restaurant business,” Premier Scott Moe said Thursday.

“The goal is to get the supports into the hands of the workers across this province as quickly as possible.”

The Saskatchewan Party government expects the program to cost $8 million.

The program was introduced in the spring to support non-essential businesses that were forced to close to curtail the virus’s spread.

Its restart comes as the province battles the most widespread transmission of COVID-19 it has seen to date along with a sharp rise in hospital admissions.

Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili called the program flawed. He said its criteria in the spring meant many businesses couldn’t get access to the funds.

“We’re talking about a commitment only to support through December and, really, a very small amount in terms of the dollars coming forward at a time when this government has put businesses in a terrible position,” Meili said.

“By failing to take clear action and support businesses early on and prevent COVID-19 getting to the state we’re in today … we may end up in a much more serious situation of lockdown if these case numbers continue to rise.”

Eligible businesses are ones that have had to change how they operate to comply with public-health rules put in place last month and have lost revenue.

Public venues, such as movie theatres and bingo halls, have had their capacity capped at 30 people and all team sports are suspended. Public health has also ordered that no more than four people sit together at a restaurant or bar.


Mars Wrigley Canada appoints two to leadership team

Derin Bello and Shannon Denny both take on new roles with the company


Derin Bello and Shannon Denny join Mars Wrigley Canada’s leadership team.

Mars Wrigley Canada has appointed two members to its leadership team: Derin Bello and Shannon Denny.

Bello is moving into the VP sales role to lead the national sales and retail team. She began her career with Mars in 2006 and has worked across a number of the company’s business units. Prior to Mars, she worked at Coca-Cola and McCain Foods Canada.

Denny is joining Mars Wrigley Canada as director of corporate affairs, Canada. She was most recently director of external communications at The Coca-Cola Company. At Mars Wrigley Canada, Denny will lead corporate affairs for Mars Wrigley, Mars Food and Mars Petcare.


Sobeys reintroduces hero pay for workers in lockdown regions

Sobeys-COVID-family-ad-360x183Sobeys says it is bringing back pay premiums for staff in locations where COVID-19 lockdowns are in effect.

Parent company Empire Company Limited says it has reinstated so-called hero pay in Manitoba, Toronto and Peel Region in Ontario as rising cases of the virus in those areas have prompted the shutdown of non-essential businesses.

Each week, eligible employees will receive between $10 and $100 extra, depending on how many hours they work and how long the government lockdowns last.

Empire says it currently expects to spend $5 million per quarter on the program, but that could change if further lockdowns are introduced.

The company offered extra money to workers early in the pandemic, but when COVID-19 cases began to decrease and lockdowns were lifted, it was stopped.

Chief executive Michael Medline promised that if regions ever entered lockdowns similar to those experienced in March and April, he would bring back a way to reward staff for their hard work.

“Our teammates continue to work tirelessly to keep our stores safe and our communities fed. Launching the lockdown bonus, in the face of new government mandated lockdowns, was simply the right thing to do,” he said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our teammates’ efforts to keep stores open, shelves stocked and Canadian families fed have been nothing short of heroic.”


Circle K owner Alimentation Couche-Tard grows profits to US$757 million

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.’s profits increased from last year in the three months ending Oct. 11, as shoppers consolidated shopping trips to convenience stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Circle K parent company says it earned US$757 million, or 68 cents U.S. per diluted share, compared with US$578.6 million, or 51 cents U.S. per diluted share, in the same period last year.

The Laval, Que.-based brand says revenues were US$10.66 billion during the quarter, down from US$13.68 billion during the same quarter last year.

Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv expected net income of US$559 million, or 50 cents U.S. per share, on sales of US$11.17 billion.

The company says its same-store merchandise sales grew 4.4 per cent in the U.S., 8.6%  in Europe and 11.4% in Canada.

Couche-Tard’s quarterly report says traffic was soft during the quarter as many people worked from home, but it sold more fuel this summer than in the spring in Europe, thanks to sunny weather.


Ontario’s Main Street Relief Grant: Does your c-store qualify?



Ontario’s Main Street Relief Grant is designed to help small businesses with the unexpected costs of PPE.

To be eligible, c-stores must have two to nine employees to be eligible for grants of up to $1,000.

To apply, you’ll need to submit receipts or proof of costs for PPE purchased since March 17, 2020. This includes:

  • gloves, gowns, face shields, eye protection, masks, sanitizer, sanitizing wipes
  • thermometers, temperature monitors or cameras
  • physical changes, including the installation of hand sanitizer stations and plexiglass dividers
  • signs to guide or inform customers and employees

As essential services, most convenience stores moved quickly to invest early in PPE with masks, counter shields. floor directional decals and sanitizing stations to keep staff and customers safe. Ongoing purchases of up to $1,000 will be eligible.

“The OCSA has lobbied the government since last March to help offset costs for our stores to serve in every community and pleased they have listened,” says OCSA CEO Dave Bryans. “Keep in mind all eligible stores can still order additional safety products as part of these relieve funds to continue to operate safely.

Click here to apply for funding. 


The November/December issue is here!

Is the latest Convenience Store News Canada and OCTANE magazine sitting in your mailbox at work? Whether you’re working from home or prefer to read online, we’ve got you covered


November/December is CSNC’s foodservice issue. While these are trying times, food delivers

 Screen Shot 2020-11-23 at 1.40.17 PMA lot can change in five years. In 2015, Technomic released a report advising Canadian c-stores to “step up” foodservice by improving quality, freshness and healthier meal options.

Fast-forward to 2020 and many Canadian convenience stores are a foodservice destination, going head-to-head with restaurants in the battle for take-out dollars. Granted, some consumers are turning to c-stores because they can’t necessarily visit restaurants during the pandemic, but more Canadian c-stores are competing in terms of quality, freshness and, in many cases, healthier options (hey, there’s nothing wrong with comfort food, especially during a pandemic). While 2020 has been crushing for the traditional restaurant industry, convenience is already well equipped to satiate harried (and hungry) customers consuming off-premise. 

Foodservice is evolving into a core component of the convenience offering and, increasingly, a strategic priority. In Canada, major chains, including Circle K, Parkland and 7-Eleven, are investing in innovative new food programs and partners, as well as online ordering, home delivery and preorder mobile apps. As outlined in “5 ways the pandemic has changed c-store foodservice,” the adaptation is accelerating during the pandemic.

Independent operators also know that the way to a customer’s heart is through their stomach. Case in point, my local c-store, Leslieville Pumps. Owners Greg and Judson Flom are masters at carving a unique place in the convenience and gas business by constantly staying one step ahead: During the early days of the pandemic, they were among the first in the neighbourhood to offer curbside pickup for those craving their popular poutines, Caesar salads and BBQ sandwiches. More recently, the brothers shuttered the fuel part of the business and moved to a nearby street-front location: “After an awesome 10 years of being Toronto’s most unique gas station we are excited to move into a space that will allow us to focus on our love for BBQ and continue to provide all your convenience store goods.”

Revenue streams for convenience stores are shifting to reflect changing consumer habits and foodservice is delivering where other categories are not. At Ure’s Country Kitchen, for instance, the food side of the business far outstrips gas in terms of profit margins, while a steady demand for ready-to-eat menu items is a key anchor for Dépanneur JLS Villeneuve de l’Ouest. 

According to the C-store IQ: Foodservice Report, 46% of c-store shoppers purchased grab and go or menu items during their more recent c-store visit, with a sizable proportion saying they were ‘highly’ satisfied. There’s an opportunity to show the other 54% that ‘gas station food’ isn’t what it used to be.

Foodservice is a differentiator and one that convenience operators—chains and independents alike—can turn into a competitive and profitable advantage. 

Michelle Warren

All this and more in the November/December issue of Convenience Store News Canada.



The Buzz: People, places, news and events

Quick Bites: Cheers to non-alcoholic beer

Top Ops: 7 loss prevention strategies 

C-store IQ: Foodservice Report

Triple play: Foodservice adds flavour to Parkland’s customer proposition

A recipe for success: Dépanneur JLS Villeneuve de l’Ouest

5 ways c-stores are adapting pandemic foodservice

The total package: Ure’s Country Kitchen

Highlights from Star Women in Convenience Virtual Awards Celebration

Category Check: What’s brewing with RTD coffee?

Snapshot: Ipsos VP Kathy Perrotta on delivering the goods in the midst of a changing foodservice industry 

Backtalk: CICC president and CEO Anne Kothawala reflects on 2020, the year convenience returned to its roots


OCTANE: Trade events still vital

Screen Shot 2020-11-23 at 1.45.23 PMIt’s fall, and traditionally I would be looking at flight and hotel bookings to trade events such as The Convenience U CARWACS Show. However, this year is unprecedented thanks to a global pandemic holding us all in its nasty clutches. So, travel is off for now, but not trade events. Innovative thinking on the part of event organizers have shows still taking place in the digital world amid altered formats.

Benefits offered by virtual trade shows are many. For starters, consider the savings in hotel, flight and other travel costs associated with attendance at an event. A digital show also means the possibility of larger attendance numbers. Without the upfront costs like lodging and air travel, more people are available to attend. This means more data and more contacts, making the virtual trade show ideal for those looking for sales and supplier leads. Virtual shows are also hyper-personalized with most events offering detailed visitor and exhibitor information. This information makes getting together simpler and more time productive. Gone are the tire kickers and time wasters who stop by booths just looking for samples or a way to kill a few minutes. Visitor and exhibitor profiles mean a targetted approach to trade show contact that results in highly qualified prospects and more business overall. And, a virtual show gives exhibitors more exposure than they would achieve in a one or two-day event. For example, The ConvenienceU CARWACS Show is live for seven days and available online for 90 days, making it easy to discover, learn and meet new contacts from the comfort of your office chair.

Over the past year, the world has changed in so many ways. But, despite the changes, some things stay the same. The need for industries and businesses to connect with their suppliers and markets remains unaltered. Trade shows might not look quite as they did in their current digital formats, but they seek to achieve the same goals. While the COVID-19 challenge has brought with it community and personal isolation that has made it more difficult for businesses to deliver their messages, trade shows still work their magic to bring people together.

  • Kelly Gray

Parkland ups the ante

Connect, engage, Learn: 2020 Convenience U CARWACS Show West goes digital

Safety first: Wash operators demonstrate skill sets to clean and sanitize during the pandemic

2021 Buyers’ Guide

Q&A with Bob Larocque, new president and CEO at the Canadian Fuels Association

All this and more in the November/December issue of OCTANE.


Toronto COVID 19 lockdown will have ‘major impact’ on residents and businesses, says councillor

Convenience stores will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity



Toronto and Peel Region will enter the province’s Lockdown level effective Monday, Nov. 23, Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday afternoon.

It means restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments will only be able to provide takeout. Indoor dining and patio dining has been prohibited.

Personal care services such as barbershops and salons will be closed. Casinos, bingo halls, and other gaming establishments will be closed. Indoor sports and recreational facilities will be closed.

Essential retail such as grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores, discount and big box retailers selling groceries, liquor stores, safety supply stores, and convenience stores will be allowed to operate at 50%t capacity.

Non-essential retail will be closed and will have to operate through curbside pickup or online delivery. Wedding services, funeral services, and religious services can have up to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors. Outdoor organized public events or social gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

Residents are asked to stay at home and go out for essential needs only. No indoor organized events or social gatherings are permitted. Individuals who live alone, including seniors, can have exclusive contact with another person.

Schools and child care centres will remain open.

The Lockdown order follows a continuing steady rise of cases in Ontario, with 80 per cent of new cases in Red Zone regions in and around the Greater Toronto Area.

Hospitalizations have increased by 22 per cent, and ICU admittance grew by 50 per cent, Ford said. The Premier added that if the restrictive actions were not taken, the province would see up to 6,000 daily cases in the coming weeks.

“This virus, it spreads like wildfire,” Ford said. “And in certain parts of the province it’s spreading at an alarming rate.”

He explained that if the lockdown measures aren’t taken then it risks overwhelming the province’s hospitals and ICUs, reminding Ontarians that the “situation is extremely serious.”

The new health measures will be in place until Dec. 21.

The province also announced $600 million in business relief (up from its initial announcement of $300 million). Eligible businesses can apply online for a temporary property tax and energy cost rebate grants.

The rebates will cover the length of time the business is required to close. Most businesses can expect to receive rebate payments within a few weeks of submitting an online application at

Ford’s announcement follows Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s earlier announcement Friday, Nov. 20, morning.

“This is for the future of our country, our children, our loved ones, our seniors, its economy, our businesses,” he said, asking Canadians to stay at home as cases spike across the country.

“Another few weeks, another few months, we can do this, we’ve done it before, we know what to do, we understand this virus much better than before, we need to reduce our contacts, we need to do it right now,” the Prime Minister added.

As of Nov. 20, Ontario reached more than 100,000 cases, and 3,451 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic this year. There are 518 patients hospitalized, 142 in ICU, and 92 on a ventilator, with the numbers continuing to grow.

Both Toronto and Peel have seen roughly 300 to 500 new cases each day for the last three weeks.

Toronto had a total 35,040 cases as of Nov. 20 since the beginning of the pandemic, currently it has 4,398 active cases. Almost 1,500 Torontonians have died this year as a result of COVID-19.

Across the city, COVID-19 has spread in varying degrees. While the northwest and Scarborough remain hardest hit, it has spread quickly through some parts of East Toronto and neighbourhoods surrounding the Danforth, including outbreaks in local long-term care homes.

As per Toronto Public Health data, in the last 21 days the Beach had six cases, East End-Danforth had 21 cases, Taylor-Massey had 47, Danforth and Danforth-East York had 13 and 18 respectively, and Greenwood-Coxwell recorded 24 cases.

The caseload per 100,000 is dire in Taylor-Massey (Crescent Town) where there are 300 cases per 100,000 in the last three weeks.

Beaches-East York NDP MPP Rima Berns-McGown said the emergency public health measures announced on Friday aren’t enough to stop the spread.

“Until Ford makes the connection that he needs to support vulnerable workers and communities, we will not be able to get this virus under control,” she said.

“It will cost the economy more in the long run than it would to invest in the workers, communities and small businesses that need immediate help.”

Berns-McGown added the province “wouldn’t have been in this situation” if Ford had taken public health advice that included more testing and contact tracing. The Premier has responded to criticism by saying he listens to all the medical advice he receives from Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, who was present and also spoke at Friday’s press conference.

As per the NDP’s repeated requests this year, Berns-McGown said the reduction of school class sizes, allowing workers to have paid sick days to stay home when they’re ill, and an emergency moratorium on evictions is what would actually make a difference in bending the curve of COVID-19 cases.

“One of the reasons we are in this nightmare is that many of our frontline workers are low-income earners who can’t afford to stay home when they are sick. So they don’t know if they will be evicted if they fall behind in their rent,” she said.

Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford, who had been monitoring the effect the pandemic has had on local businesses, said the lockdown is very worrying.

“As I talk to community members across Beaches-East York, I know another lockdown is going to have major impacts on our physical, economic and mental health,” he said. “Our local businesses have been hard hit. We hear a lot about the hospitality sector but our other local staples like gyms, yoga studios and other recreational activities are really hurting. I share a lot of the sentiments I’m hearing about the approach and communications on managing this crisis being confusing and seeming inconsistent.”

“While it’s sometimes hard to understand one specific decision over another, it’s clear that we need to take the public health advice seriously,” Bradford added.

Earlier moves by the city that had allowed restaurants and bars to offer outdoor patio service and space over the winter, will be ineffective during the lockdown.

Local politicians, business owners, and the Premier are all imploring residents to shop local and order takeout to help weather the economic fallout of the lockdown.

The Premier also told Ontarians to “avoid panic buying” as supply lines remain open and continuous.

While Toronto and Peel moved into Lockdown stage, Durham and Waterloo were moved to Red, and other health units across Ontario moved to Orange or Yellow.

At the press conference, Dr. Williams asked Ontarians in high-risk zones to avoid travel to lower-risk zones during the lockdown.


Alimentation Couche-Tard subsidiary acquires U.S.-based Pride c-store chain

UnknownColumbus-based Mac’s Convenience Stores LLC, a subsidiary of Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., acquired Pride C-Stores Inc. Columbia City-based Pride C-Stores owned and operated seven convenience stores, according to Convenience Store News.

Pride C-Stores, which began as Parish Oil Co., acquired its first convenience store in 1977. In 1983, the company began a bulk fuels operation, serving local residential, agricultural and industrial customers.

It sold the bulk fuels business in 1988 as the company turned its attention to developing its c-store chain. All of the stores operate under the Pride brand and are within 25 miles of the Columbia City headquarters in and around the Fort Wayne metropolitan area.

The stores are located in Auburn, Churubusco, Columbia City, Fort Wayne, Kendallville, Merriam and Warsaw. The locations sell CITGO-branded fuel.

The average parcel size is approximately 1.2 acres, while the average building size is approximately 3,000 sq. ft. Two of the sites have car wash facilities, according to NRC Realty & Capital Advisors.

“We worked very hard to build a ‘best of class’ chain of convenience stores in northeastern Indiana and we have been proud to serve  our customers in these markets. We ultimately concluded for a number of reasons that it was the right time to sell,” said Richard “Rusty” Parish, president of Pride C-Stores.

“Although we faced some headwinds in getting this done, especially in the face of COVID-19, we were able to achieve our objectives, due in large part to the assistance we received  from our team of financial advisors at NRC Realty & Capital Advisors,” he added.




Nestlé Canada to welcome new president and CEO

JP-Carmichael-072518-200x300John Carmichael (pictured) will replace Jeff Hamilton as president and CEO of Nestlé Canada when the latter takes on a new role in Europe next year.

Hamilton, who has been with Nestlé for close to 30 years, is moving to Switzerland to lead Nestlé Purina EMENA (Europe, Middle East and North Africa). He leaves his role with Nestlé Canada on Feb. 1.

Carmichael is currently president of the Foods Division at Nestlé USA. He began his career with Nestlé in 1995 in Pet Care and has since worked in various capacities and businesses throughout the company.

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 11.03.54 AM

C-store IQ: Loyalty Report

Reap the rewards with a well designed loyalty program


The majority of Canadian c-store shoppers appreciate their favourite store’s loyalty program, with 63% of loyalty program members saying they are actively leveraging their membership and are satisfied with the program, according to proprietary data from Convenience Store News Canada’s C-store IQ: A National Shopper Study

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 10.51.05 AM

C-store IQ is the first convenience and gas specific study that delves into the wants, needs, perspectives and habits of Canadian convenience consumers. 

More than 1,000 Canadians 18+ participated in the C-store IQ study, which shows that 43% of shoppers visit chain convenience stores and 38% visit independently owned convenience stores at least once a week. In turn, 70% of convenience store shoppers typically shop the same store each time, presenting massive opportunities to drive engagement and sales through loyalty efforts. 

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 10.50.01 AM


Give and take

Loyalty programs enable retailers to gather data about their customers’ wants and needs, but it has to be a reciprocal relationship with experiences, offers and incentives designed to make members feel valued (and, in the process, drive sales).

Done right, it works. For instance, more than one-in-four shoppers who shop for both gasoline and in-store merchandise at least once a month report they were influenced by frequent buyer/loyalty programs (28%) to shop for in-store merchandise on a recent trip. 

Research shows loyalty programs are also an effective means to engage female shoppers. While males and females are comparably influenced by different marketing tactics, the one exception is loyalty programs where females (31%) are more likely to be influenced than males (25%).  

Cultivating membership

C-store loyalty programs prove popular, however there’s plenty of room for employing tactics to expand membership. 

While more than half of shoppers frequent a convenience store that has a loyalty program, only 42% of shoppers are enrolled in and actively use their store’s loyalty program (the proportion of loyalty members that do not use the program is relatively small at only 5% of shoppers).

  •     Females (45%) are more likely than males (37%) to be enrolled and actively use
  •     Males (8%) are more likely than females (3%) to be enrolled but not use.
  •     Millennials (45%) and Generation X (45%) are more likely than boomers (35%) to say they are enrolled in a loyalty program and actively use it.
  •     Millennials (9%) are more likely to say their convenience store has a loyalty program but they are not enrolled compared to Generation X (7%) and boomers (7%).
  •     Boomers (13%) are more likely than millennials (7%) to say they would not enroll in a loyalty program even if their convenience store had one.

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 10.50.10 AM

While 63% of loyalty program members that are actively leveraging their membership are satisfied with the program, there are some differences when it comes to generation and gender. 

  •     Boomers (70%) are more likely to be satisfied as compared to millennials (58%).
  •     Females are slightly more likely to be satisfied (63%) compared to men (61%). 

 There’s an app for that

For many shoppers, carrying around a wallet full of bulky loyalty cards can be a deterrent. With that in mind, about half (45%) of loyalty program active members use their store’s loyalty program mobile app.  However, one in five (19%) are not using the app even though they are aware. This is a missed opportunity for retailers, as apps enable them to collect data and engage with shoppers on a new and more targeted level, such as time of day and location-based offers delivered in real time. 

  •     Males (24%) are more likely than females (15%) to be aware but not have used their convenience store loyalty program’s mobile app. 
  •     Females (29%) are more likely to be unsure if their loyalty program has a mobile app compared to males (23%).
  •     Millennials (58%) and Generation X (51%) are more likely than boomers (30%) to have used their convenience store loyalty program’s mobile app. 
  •     Boomers (40%) are more likely to be unsure if their loyalty program has a mobile app compared to millennials (17%) and Generation X (25%). 

 Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 10.51.59 AM


What’s stopping them?

While those who use loyalty programs tend to find value, there’s room to convert the doubters by addressing their primary concerns. The top three reasons shoppers say they would not enroll in a loyalty program include: 

  1.   They already belong to too many loyalty programs (35%);
  2.   Requires too many purchases to see benefits (34%); 
  3.   Rewards/points/discounts are not valuable (31%). 

Broken down by generation and gender, it looks like this:

  •     Millennials (43%) are more likely than Generation X (32%) and boomers (30%) to say that they already belong to too many loyalty programs.
  •     Males (40%) are more likely than females (25%) to feel rewards/points/discounts are not valuable. 
  •     Females (39%) are also more likely than males (28%) to be deterred from signing up, because they feel too many purchases are required to earn rewards/points. 

In addition, individuals are concerned with privacy issues: 14% of shoppers that have not enrolled in a loyalty program say it’s because they feel like they have to give away a lot of information. Males (20%) are more likely than females (9%) to feel that too much information is asked for at the time of registration.

Key takeaways

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 10.51.44 AMAlthough a large proportion of shoppers use c-store loyalty programs, the market is far from saturated and c-stores have ample opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of a well conceived loyalty program. 

Simply having a program is not enough: Many people say they don’t get enough value from the membership. Since shoppers today look for instant gratification, many are deterred from joining loyalty programs because they feel reward points are not very valuable or they need to make a lot of purchases before gaining any benefit. C-stores that clearly communicate a program’s larger benefits and attainable rewards are most likely to entice new members. 

It’s worth noting that while traditionally younger shoppers have been the ones to use loyalty program mobile apps, in the era of COVID-19 these demographics are shifting, with more shoppers embracing digital technology as a means to reduce touchpoints and engage in frictionless experiences. For many operators, this calls for better optimization and integration of the c-store digital infrastructure in order to increase program satisfaction and meet customers’ evolving expectations.