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Judge rules out half century prison term for Edmonton c-store killer

A man convicted of killing two Edmonton convenience store clerks will not be eligible for parole for 25 years.

A judge handed down a life sentence Friday to Colton Steinhauer and did not follow a jury’s recommendation that the killer serve 50 years before he can apply for release.

The jury found Steinhauer guilty in May of two counts of first-degree murder.

Two other accused were earlier convicted in the shooting deaths of the Mac’s employees during holdups at two different stores on one night in December 2015.

Court heard that Steinhauer shot Ricky Cenabre at a south-end location.

Steinhauer was also sentenced to eight years for the two robberies, which are to be served at the same time as the life sentence.

A victim impact statement was read by Cenabre’s niece at a sentencing hearing Thursday. She said the three killers don’t deserve compassion.

“Seeing the video, they never had any compassion at all. So why give it to them?” said Mary Puerto.

According to an agreed statement of facts read in court, Steinhauer, Laylin Delorme and a 13-year-old boy entered the first Mac’s store with their faces covered. They beat and robbed Karanpal Bhangu before Delorme shot and killed the clerk.

Fifteen minutes later, the trio robbed and assaulted Cenabre at the second store. Steinhauer shot him with the same pistol Delorme had used in the first robbery.

Cenabre and Bhangu, both immigrants, had been working alone on night shifts when they were killed.

Bhangu, 35, had moved from India four months earlier. Cenabre, 41, had come to Canada from the Philippines.

Delorme was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life with no parole eligibility for 25 years. He is appealing the verdict and the Crown is appealing the parole period.

The teen was convicted of two counts of manslaughter and sentenced to three years.


Longo's

Longo’s unveils “convenience-based” store concept

Longo's

Longo’s

In its continued effort to cater to office crowds and commuters,
Longo’s opened its doors Monday to a “small-scale, convenience-based grocery store” it’s calling Pronto Eats.

Located in Toronto’s underground PATH system at Hudson’s Bay Centre at Yonge and Bloor just steps away from the subway, the store will offer ready-to-eat and semi-prepared meal options as well as roasted coffee and handcrafted espresso-based beverages.

“For those who work inside or nearby, the PATH is a place where time, quality, and convenience intersect, and this is at the core of what Pronto Eats plans to deliver,” said Longo’s spokesperson Rosanne Longo in a press release announcing the store opening.

Grocery Gateway same-day pickup will be available at the store, and customers can also pick and pay for items through the Ritual food-ordering app. The store will not offer single-use plastic bags, but according to the press release, will offer “multiple reusable solutions.”

At 1,000 sq. ft., Pronto Eats is considerably smaller than a regular Longo’s (35,000 sq. ft.) and also smaller than its urban concept store, The Market by Longo’s, which is typically between 5,500 and 7,000 sq. ft. and sells staples such as fresh produce and meat. (There is a street-level The Market by Longo’s within the same city block as Pronto Eats.)

It has been a busy summer for Longo’s, which opened a 40,000-sq.-ft. store at Toronto’s Yonge Sheppard Centre Aug. 1.

The Toronto-area chain plans to open two more stores this fall–one in the city’s Liberty Village and one in East Gwillimbury, just north of Newmarket.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer. 


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Ontario should heed lessons of other provinces for new beer system: experts

shutterstock_773619718As the Ontario government prepares to move ahead with its plans to overhaul the province’s 92-year-old beer distribution system, experts say it should heed lessons from retail sales systems in other provinces.

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have made it clear that their goal is to give Ontarians more choice and convenience when it comes to alcohol sales, but details are scant as to how they hope to achieve this.

The PCs have the option of adopting the systems used in Quebec, Alberta or British Columbia, or they can develop something unique.

“The lack of detail suggests that they just have this principle of liberalizing but they haven’t got a vision of what kind of system they want,” says Dan Malleck, a beer expert and associate professor applied health sciences at Brock University.

The B.C. model uses provincially owned and private liquor stores but doesn’t allow purchases in supermarkets. Alberta’s system is entirely private with no limit on the number of stores. Quebec allows sales in grocery stores, convenience stores and big box outlets like Costco in addition to government-run liquor outlets.

Most provinces restrict beer sales to provincially owned stores but Newfoundlanders can pick up a cold one from corner stores and gas stations, while New Brunswickers will be able to buy beer in select grocery stores starting in October.

Ontario retail groups are pushing the province to adopt a system similar to Quebec where distribution is widespread and retailers can set their own prices after negotiating directly with breweries. That allows them to pass along any savings to consumers instead of being constrained by a universal selling price set by producers.

“Our preferred model is essentially the Quebec model,” says Karl Littler, the council’s senior vice-president, public affairs.

That would not be as financially beneficial for the owners of The Beer Store, he acknowledges, but they would still prosper.

“It doesn’t seem like they’ve had any difficulty selling in the province of Quebec or in the province of Alberta or indeed in any province,” he said in an interview.

The Beer Store, which is owned by the foreign brewing giants that control Labatt, Molson and Sleeman, accounts for almost 70% of beer sales volume in Ontario, which generated $3.3 billion in sales in 2017-18, according to a recent report by consultant Ken Hughes which recommended changes Ontario should adopt.

Littler said the Beer Store is looking to defend a system that gives its owners substantially greater margins in Ontario than they enjoy in Quebec because of the way that they control both wholesale and retail prices.

Expanding the number of points of sale is sure to increase distribution costs as it has in Quebec where beer is delivered to about 8,000 locations instead of Ontario which has the fewest per capita retail locations in the country, says Dave Bryans, CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association.

“Right now the extra savings go to the beer companies, not to the consumers,” he said in an interview.

Bryans said minimum prices need to be set to protect craft brewers from predatory prices by the global brewers, but he has no problem with beer prices being a little more expensive in convenience stores than at grocers or The Beer Store.

Craft beer sales represent less than 2% of sales at The Beer Store but more than 10% at government-run LCBO locations and more than 15% at grocers.

Allowing sales of beer, especially craft selections, in family-run independent corner stores can help to save a sector that’s been losing five stores a week in the province for the last decade, said Bryans.

“I actually think the craft beer business will bring more millennials into the sector as well and really help shore up the future business model in every community.”

He thinks Ontario will select an open and competitive market like Quebec’s, but with a bias towards craft beer because it is more developed in Ontario than Quebec where the dominance of the big breweries has long controlled shelf space.

The future of Ontario’s beer distribution system remains a mystery because the law that rips up a 10-year agreement with the Beer Store signed in 2015 by the previous Liberal government has yet to be proclaimed more than a month after receiving Royal Assent.

Industry observers believe the provincial government is using the threat of rescinding the legal rights of The Beer Store to compensation as a hammer to force a deal with the retailer.

The Beer Store declined to comment but said after the law was introduced that it would “fight this legislation vigorously through the courts.”

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s new finance minister, Rod Phillips, said the government plans to stick with its campaign promise despite a cabinet shuffle and threat of legal action, but declined to provide any details about the how the system will change or answer questions about the timing of implementing a new law.

“We will continue to work towards getting the best deal possible for Ontario consumers and businesses, and at this time cannot speculate on the outcome of this process,” said Emily Hogeveen in an email.

Canada’s retail council expects the Beer Store will remain a viable competitor even though it estimates that grocery and convenience stores might get about half of the current Beer Store retail business following the changes.

“I think the story that they’re just going to somehow wither on the vine is a little strange,” he said. “Obviously it would be significant or they wouldn’t be spitting bullets like they are currently about the prospect of change.”


Ontario to issue 50 new cannabis store licences: What could this mean for c-stores?

cannabisOntario is set to get 50 more cannabis stores starting in October, and applicants will have to first show they have their finances and retail space ready to go.

The announcement June 26th comes as some of the first 25 of the province’s legal pot shops that were supposed to open April 1 are still not up and running.

Those initial retailers were chosen through a lottery to open Ontario’s first brick-and-mortar cannabis stores—when the drug became legal recreationally last October it was only available online through the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store—and that lottery system has faced criticism for not including a merit component.

In other Canadian jurisdictions allowing for the private sale of cannabis, successful retailers often include convenience stores. For instance, of the 24 retailers selected to qualify for cannabis sales in Newfoundland and Labrador, one is a convenience store in Labrador City. Last summer, a Co-op gas-bar in Calgary was given the green light.

Convenience operators in Ontario are watching the situation. One of the questions is whether the government will allow cannabis stores-within-a-store or insist they be entirely separate.

Either way, convenience-store operators like Alimentation Couche-Tard, which has a large number of Ontario locations, are well positioned.

“We have the ability to sell this product while meeting all government requirements (and) we can train our staff on verifying the identity of all consumers, regardless of their age,” Couche-Tard founder and executive chairman Alain Bouchard foreshadowed at the company’s 2017 annual meeting.

In February 2019, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. entered into a multi-year trademark license agreement with Canopy Growth Corporation, one of the winners of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s Expression of Interest Application Lottery, who was preparing to operate a “Tweed” branded retail store in London, Ont. The store opened in May in a shopping plaza that is also home to Walmart, LCBO, Beer Store, Movie Theatre, Farm Boy and others.

In a release, the new partners stated: “Through this partnership, Alimentation Couche-Tard is aiming to lean on Canopy Growth’s cannabis expertise and leverage its experience with other age-restricted products to focus on the safe, responsible and lawful sale of cannabis, consistent with the legislation enacted by the federal and provincial governments. As two Canadian-made and globally-positioned companies, the London location will serve as an important entry to market that could lead to future international opportunities.”

“Alimentation Couche-Tard is excited about taking a leadership role in the development of cannabis retailing excellence in this major Canadian market. We believe the Ontario Cannabis Store and private retailers will co-exist under a tightly regulated framework with common goals to protect public health and safety,” said Couche-Tard president and CEO Brian Hannasch.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will hold a lottery on Aug. 20 for the next 42 retail store authorizations. Another eight stores will be located on First Nations reserves through a separate process.

For this lottery, applicants will have to show evidence that if they are selected, they have already secured retail space that could be used as a store and that they have enough capital to open it, the AGCO said.

One licenced cannabis producer said the latest initiative will position the industry for significant sales growth in Canada’s largest province.

“After the first 25 stores began to open in Ontario, the industry saw overall sales of cannabis basically double,” Dr. Avtar Dhillon, executive chairman and president of Emerald Health Therapeutics said in a statement.

“Adult-use consumers are showing a preference for going into a physical location where they can interact with educated, savvy budtenders and we anticipate that the further expansion of physical stores in Ontario and Canada will strongly serve the growth of legal cannabis sales.”

The Ontario government decided on an initial round of just 25 stores, citing national supply issues, but that appears to be easing.

“Our government is continuing to take a responsible approach to opening cannabis stores across Ontario, allowing private sector businesses to build a safe and convenient retail system to combat the illegal market,” Finance Minister Rod Phillips said in a statement.

“With marginal improvements in national supply, we are proceeding to issue up to 50 new cannabis store licences.”

Attorney General Doug Downey said in a statement that a phased approach is still necessary.

“While the federal supply issues persist, we cannot in good conscience issue an unlimited number of licences to businesses,” he wrote.

Omar Khan, a vice-president with Hill+Knowlton Strategies who advises several clients in the cannabis industry, said the announcement is a positive step, but called for further action.

“If the government wants to eliminate the illicit market they will need to ensure that consumers are able to access legal product offerings conveniently and in a timely manner,” he said in a statement.

“This means moving aggressively towards an open licensing system as soon as the national supply situation permits, and working with the private sector to significantly improve the current online customer retail experience.”

The 42 new stores selected through the lottery will be distributed regionally, with 13 in the city of Toronto, six going to the Greater Toronto Area, 11 in the west region, seven going to the east region, and in the north, one each in Kenora, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Timmins.

Stores will be allowed to open in any municipality regardless of population if the community did not opt out of having cannabis stores.

The process for First Nation stores will start in July on a first-come, first-served basis.

With files from Canadian Press. 


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Vaping and c-stores: 6 burning questions answered

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 3.18.20 PMNot all that long ago, tobacco was the staple for c-stores across Canada. Cigarettes, by the package (large and small) and by the carton (large and small) lined shelves in full display of a steady stream of customers. Those days are gone. In their place are new customers looking to buy a product that has the allure of smoking without, potentially, containing the more than 4,000 chemicals in the typical cigarette.

Electronic cigarettes, commonly called e-cigarettes or simply e-cigs, and related products are becoming a staple for many tobacco smokers and a cadre of non-smokers. As a result, the product category offers convenience stores a new and growing opportunity to draw more customers into their premises more often. The category, however, is not without controversy.

As you enter this brave new world, it’s time to get to know this emerging category.

1. What is vaping?

Vaping refers to the act of inhaling and exhaling – or smoking – a vapour (aerosol) produced by products like e-cigarettes. Vaping products heat liquid formulations, called e-liquids, which are then inhaled.

According to Imperial Tobacco Canada, most vapour products are based on what is called a coil and wick technology. The coil, also known as an atomizer, heats a cotton wick that conveys the liquid, producing the vapour that is inhaled.

Vaping devices come in numerous shapes and sizes, a factor that has confused many in the c-store sector. Some products are small and resemble USB drives or pens. Others are much larger. Despite the diversity of options, however, there are only two types of vaping devices, Health Canada reports. An open system enables the device to be refilled. A closed system requires the whole product or the part that holds the e-liquid to be replaced.

There are also related systems and products including what are called heat-not-burn products that heat tobacco instead of burning it.

2. As a category, is vaping different from smoking?

Absolutely, says Rob Colucci of Fontem Canada – blu Vapour, whose overarching goal as a vaping product company is to transition adult smokers to something better and ultimately eliminate the consumption of combustible (smoking) tobacco. “As a category vapour has exponential growth potential,” he says. “The key to this goal is to help existing adult smokers switch by offering vaping products as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes. Health Canada recognizes and shares this goal, as is made clear on their website where it is noted that vaping is less harmful than smoking.”

3. How prevalent is vaping?

That is a difficult question to answer. A 2017 study from the University of Waterloo, Tobacco Use in Canada, found that in 2015, among Canadians 15 years and older a “substantial number” had tried e-cigarettes. The specific numbers look like this:

  • 13.2% (3.9 million) reported having ever tried an e-cigarette
  • 3.2% (approximately 946,000) used one in the past 30 days
  • 1.0% (roughly 308,000) reported daily use

The use of e-cigarettes is also growing in popularity, according to the report. That popularity appears to be global. In the U.S., for example, a national survey in 2016 found that roughly 4.5 per cent of the adult population were current e-cigarette users. Individuals under 35 accounted for more than half of this figure.

“The vaping market is relatively new and expected to grow rapidly as cigarette sales decline,” notes Michael Nederhoff, Canada’s general manager with JUUL Labs in Toronto. “Some estimate the yearly growth rate of this category is over 15 per cent and could cross $43 billion globally by 2023.”

4. What is the sales potential of e-cigarettes for c-stores?

“Vaping products present a big opportunity for convenience stores,” says Nederhoff. “Vapes are on their way to becoming a sizable product category for convenience store operators. Adult smokers are increasingly interested in what vaping technology has to offer. And regulators and industry are working hard to make sure these products are available in a responsible and controlled way.”

Charis Chrysochoidis, reduced risk products lead for Canada with JTI-Macdonald Corp., in Toronto, points out that the category is likely to expand given a regulatory reversal by Health Canada. “The sale of nicotine containing e-liquids was only legalized in May 2018, so we expect the category to grow over the next couple of years as more adult consumers discover alternative choices to their existing smoking and vaping products. And we think most of this growth will occur through convenience store sales.”

The margin on vape products is also superior to tobacco, notes Stewart Ingles, president of Hilary’s Salesmaster Inc, a national retail distributor based in Concord, Ont. “Convenience stores hardly ever get true dollar margins as they will with this category, so they need to embrace and promote within their stores based on the provincial legal rules.”

“This, in my opinion,” he adds, “is the most important new category to enter this market since the energy drinks.”

5. Will consumers switch from online to in-store?

There is another reason vaping is growing in Canada and has the potential to become a big category in c-stores, says Peter Luongo, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.’s managing director in Toronto. “Currently online sales are the number one channel for vape product sales, and specialized vape stores are another potential destination for consumers.”

Indeed, says Nederhoff, “convenience stores are one of few brick-and-mortar options for adult smokers to legally purchase vaping devices and products. As such, they play an integral role.”

From a sales perspective, there is no special equipment or features required to sell vaping products. Pricing is also straightforward if c-stores follow the manufacturers’ recommend price point. While prices will vary according to type of product and manufacturer, the market is competitive. C-stores can expect pricing to reflect that competitive market.

6. What do c-store owners need to know about the products?

Understanding e-cigarettes and vaping products has proven problematic. “Initially, the vaping category flooded convenience store owners with complex systems that were hard to explain to both store owners and consumers,” says Chrysochoidis.

JTI is hoping it has cut through this confusion with its new vape system, which Chrysochoidis calls a “game changer.” “Logic Compact offers convenience stores a simple and easy way to use vape, and consumers are responding positively. With its magnetic pods and charger, vaping just clicks with Logic Compact.”

The system, known as a closed tank, uses replaceable 1.6ml pre-filled e-liquid pods. The pods come in four flavours — tobacco, menthol, fresh berries and tropical — and click seamlessly into the device magnetically, as does the charging cable. “Choosing simple, sleek vape technology like Logic Compact makes it easy for convenience store owners to increase foot traffic and revenues and capitalize on the profit opportunity that vapes represent,” says Chrysochoidis.

Other companies, such as JUUL, offer c-stores the option to carry pods in flavours that range from mango to cucumber to Virginia tobacco. These sell for a recommended $20.99 a pack. Device kits, including starter kits, are also essential. JUUL’s starter kit, for instance, includes a rechargeable device, USB charging dock, four JUULpods, and it comes with a one-year limited device warranty.

Then there is the IQOS 3 MULTI, a heated tobacco system and not technically a vape, that gives customers 10 back-to-back experiences without having to charge the IQOS holder in between heatsticks.

Variety defines the vaping market.

Except from The Vape Report in the May/June Issue of Convenience Store News Canada


Ontario to expand beer, wine to convenience stores, finance minister says

Ontario’s finance minister says the province will be moving ahead with an expansion of beer and wine sales into corner stores, big box stores and more grocery stores, promising the move will cut prices and prevent any potential privatization of the LCBO.

Vic Fedeli said Thursday that the Progressive Conservative government will make good on a pledge made during last spring’s election to offer consumers more choice when it comes to where they can purchase booze.

20387772_5bdd6d49a5_z“Our government is actively working to expand the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, box stores, and even more grocery stores,” Fedeli said during a speech to a business audience in Toronto delivered ahead of his first provincial budget on April 11.

“We made a commitment during the campaign to provide consumers with greater choice and convenience, and we plan on delivering.”

Fedeli gave no timeline for the move but said greater competition in the sector will lower prices for consumers and expand product availability.

Ontario currently has the lowest density of retail outlets selling beer, wine, cider and spirits in Canada, Fedeli said, with less than 3,000 outlets selling alcohol compared to Quebec’s approximately 8,000.

The minister also said the government has no plans to privatize the LCBO despite receiving a report last fall that recommended consideration of the sale of some government assets.

Fedeli called the chain of over 600 LCBO outlets a “prestige asset in Ontario” and said a sell-off would not be part of the government’s plan to eliminate a deficit that the Tories have pegged at $13.5 billion.

“We believe this will open it all up without any need whatsoever to privatize that valuable asset,” he said of the move to have alcohol sold in corner stores and big box stores.

Fedeli said the idea of selling government assets to address the deficit won’t help the government in the long run. He said the previous Liberal government’s sale of its General Motors shares and part of its Hydro One ownership stake just temporarily covered for budget problems.

“We have a structural deficit. That means the day-to-day bills that are being paid with borrowed money,” he said. “Selling an asset doesn’t solve that, it only puts a band-aid on it for a year.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would be focused on enhancing services for people of the province if she were premier, not expanding access to alcohol.

“We have a government that’s taking teachers out of classrooms, reducing autism services for kids but making sure that we can have beer in every corner store,” she said. “I think they have the wrong priorities.”

Last year, the Tory government cancelled a scheduled increase in the provincial beer tax, forgoing $11 million in potential revenue, and brought back so-called buck-a-beer.

Buck-a-beer lowers the minimum price of a bottle or can of beer to $1 from $1.25. Brewers are not required to charge less and the minimum price doesn’t apply to draft beer, nor does it include the bottle deposit.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said the move to greater availability of alcohol in corner stores is something that could require more public consultation.

“Change in alcohol and beer and wine (availability) in Ontario has always been very incremental,” he said. “We should talk to people. If we do something like that it has to be done in a responsible way.”

The previous Liberal government had expanded alcohol sales beyond the LCBO during their term, authorizing more than 350 grocery stores to sell beer and cider, and 70 to sell wine.