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OCSA invites retailers to participate in tobacco survey

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association is conducting a survey to gather information to share with the Ontario Government in an effort to find solutions to illegal cigarettes, while understanding the importance of the tobacco business for convenience stores.

Independent, chain and franchise operators are invited to participate in a survey and share their experiences and thoughts.

“If you are concerned about contraband and what it is doing to your revenue and traffic, then here is a great opportune to weigh in as a small business owner,” says OCSA president & CEO Dave Bryans. He will be sharing the information with the Tobacco Project Team, which is making a report to the Minister of Finance in August. “The government wants to hear from the convenience sector themselves, small business owners and how it effects them.”

Click here to complete the survey.


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Employee care key to brand reputation during COVID 19, consumer survey finds

As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down large parts of the economy and upended the way many companies do business, Canadian consumers were watching, and judging.

The Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria’s annual brand trust study tracks consumer trust in hundreds of brands across five measures, including consumer perceptions of the brand’s social responsibility and how it interacts with consumers. This year, researchers also conducted a follow-up study due to the pandemic. They tracked changes to consumer sentiment for 125 brands.

The study revealed that when it comes to brand trust, consumers put a premium on how companies treated their employees during the pandemic.

One company that saw its trust erode among Canadians was Amazon Inc.

The tech titan’s trust score in the overall survey was 31 – down from 48 in 2019, said Saul Klein, the business school’s dean and lead author of the report.

In the follow-up survey, Amazon’s trust score fell to 24, said Klein, and it took the no. 68 spot in an overall ranking of the 125 brands.

“Those are big moves,” he said, explaining brands that Canadians trust the most tend to score between 55 and 60 points, while those in the bottom rankings fall just below -30 points.

“I think there’s a whole bunch of things (that) came together at the same time,” said Klein of Amazon’s fall.

Early in the pandemic, consumers worried about price gouging on the platform, he said.

While Amazon promised to crack down on any sellers looking to profit from the pandemic, the initial impression left many consumers worried about whether they could trust the company to do so, he said.

Meanwhile, the company experienced an increase in volume, resulting in some delivery delays and supply-chain problems, he said, and faced questions around its treatment of employees.

As bricks-and-mortar retailers start to reopen after temporarily shuttering operations due to the coronavirus, customers may not have to rely on Amazon as much, said Klein.

“If it doesn’t come across as providing a superior alternative, then they have to worry.”

Lysol and Clorox also saw their scores drop slightly in the follow-up survey thanks to supply shortages.

In the early days of the pandemic, customers flocked to grocery stores to stock up on a number of products, including cleaning supplies. Many retailers experienced temporary shortages of some cleaning products and limited the number that shoppers could purchase at a time.

“While customers might have wanted them, they couldn’t find them,” said Klein, noting even now consumers may struggle to find the brands’ products in stores or online.

Neither brands’ score dropped dramatically, he said. Lysol fell from 44 in the initial survey to 41 in the follow up, while Clorox lost six points going from 32 to 26.

Lysol was no. 28 in the follow-up list, while Clorox took the 51 spot.

On the positive side, Canada Post claimed the top spot with Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix, CTV News, Costco and The Weather Network rounding out the top five in the follow-up survey. The latter two tied for the fourth spot.

Those surveyed gave the mail carrier top scores for honest communication and care for societal well-being, according to the report.

Canada Post’s score increased from 38 to 57 in the follow-up survey, said Klein, calling the 19-point increase “massive.”

That came down to the mail service treating employees well, he said, as well as increased consumer dependency.

Consumers also rewarded Loblaw, Real Canadian Superstores and Walmart with higher scores on employee treatment. Their trust scores on employee treatment rose by 19, 15 and 13 points respectively, according to the report, which attributes the rise to the retailers being at the forefront of Canadian food and drug retailers to raise wages temporarily for their workers during the pandemic.

Overall, Loblaw claimed the no. 12 spot, the Real Canadian Superstore tied with Sobeys for 13, while Walmart fell into a five-way tie for the 77 spot in the follow-up survey.

Recently, Canada’s major three grocers – Loblaw Companies Ltd., Metro Inc. and Sobeys Inc. – announced they were eliminating so-called pandemic pay hourly wage increases for workers as of Saturday, June 13. Walmart made a similar move at the end of May. Two unions called the decision premature, with one of them calling for the pay increases to be made permanent.

 

Several convenience and gas-related companies also made the list, with Couche-Tard boasting a notable increase over 2019:

Lindt/Lindor: 23

Haagan Dazs: 33

Petro-Canada: 92

Canada Dry: 102

Hershey’s: 162

Lay’s Potato Chips: 162

Old Dutch Foods: 162

Couche-Tard: 228 (up 30 spots from 2019)

Esso: 228

Pepsi: 252

Dentyne: 257

Coca-Cola: 257

Ultramar: 265

Husky Oil: 277

Shell: 289

Red Bull: 387

For the overall survey, AskingCanadians surveyed 7,800 Canadians 18 years and older online for opinions on more than 342 brands between January 8 and February 10. The follow up survey questioned 1,050 people to gauge changes in trust for 105 brands between April 8 and 23.

According to the polling industry’s generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

With files from Michelle Warren


RCC

Video and printable guidelines remind customers to shop smart

RCC

RCC

Retail Council of Canada (RCC), on behalf of the retail industry in Canada, is sharing a short video and other resources outlining the precautions and guidelines convenience, grocery and drugstore shoppers should follow to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a welcome move, as retailers struggle to keep themselves and staff save from customers who “just don’t get it.”

Convenience Store News Canada and Octane asked c-store and gas operators about how the crisis is affecting their business and here’s what we heard in terms of how customers are behaving in-store.

“We still have groups of young kids/teens coming in together for snack items. We still have adults who indicate they are ‘bored sitting at home’ so they come to the store for chips or ice cream – non-essentials when they should be minimizing their social interactions.”

“I have an elderly mother who is on the at-risk list. I myself am on the at-risk list. My teenage daughter is on the at-risk list. I want to be here for my customers who need necessities – cleaning supplies, food, personal care items, medications. But the number of customers who are buying snack food and lottery, and nothing else, without regard for the risk they are putting staff in, as well as every other customer we come into contact with, is staggering.”

“People are not staying home, many citizens in our community have viewed the last couple of weeks as a paid holiday and their everyday habits haven’t changed.  Nice spring days our stores are often as busy as they were during Christmas.  People need to stay home!”

“We still have tourists coming in to our store.  We are located in a tourist town, but people are still coming up from neighbouring  cities rather than taking self isolation seriously.” 

“I’ve been quite lucky, our customers are understanding of limits. Customers are abiding by the floor markers we’ve put down indicating acceptable spacing limits for line ups,  It’s nice when customers thank us for being open, and nice to see the Prime Minister acknowledge front line workers.” 

Indeed, c-store and gas operators are front-line workers and deemed essential businesses. However, everyone, including shoppers, has a role in play in keeping people safe and stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“The way we live our lives has fundamentally changed over the past several weeks.  So, what does that mean for the activities that many of us still need to do each week, like shopping for food or other essential needs?  While your shopping experience at your local grocery or drugstore has changed, it’s important for each of us to recognize the role we need to play to help keep front-line workers in stores safe,” Diane J. Brisebois, president and CEO, Retail Council of Canada, said in a release.  “On behalf of retailers across the country, RCC wants to thank employees who are keeping grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential retail services operating – helping keep Canadians fed and well.”

In addition to the video, there are printable signs that operators can post outside their as a reminder to shoppers. Download the Shop Smart poster here. 

Or, create your own, with these rules, courtesy of RCC:

BEFORE WE SHOP

  • If you’re sick, or have been asked to quarantine at home, don’t go to your local grocery or drugstore. Use contactless delivery and have someone drop them off at your door, knock, then retreat to a safe distance!
  • While we all feel isolated and look for ways to fill our days, to keep our loved ones busy, we need to remember that we must avoid planning our grocery or drugstore trips with others in tow. Just designate one person to shop! Shop alone.

WHILE WE SHOP (alone)

  • Practice Physical Distancing – 2M or 6ft. (That’s the length of an average hockey stick 😊)
  • Be considerate. Only buy what you need! Only touch what you take.
  • Wash your hands before and after you shop and use sanitizer whenever you can.
  • When paying for your goods, use contactless debit or credit / tap wherever possible.
  • If you use re-usable bags – wash them before and after your shopping trip – and if possible, bag items yourself – or don’t use them at all right now.
  • Be kind – we are all in this together.

For French and Chinese versions, visit the RCC website. 


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We are interested in your story: How is COVID-19 affecting your business?

Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 12.54.15 PMAt Convenience Store News Canada and Octane, we know there’s no such thing as working from home when you operate a convenience store, gas site or car wash. Thank you for everything you are doing to serve Canadians.

We would like to give you the opportunity to share what’s on your mind and talk about how the coronavirus is impacting your business.

Please tell us about any experiences/ideas you think might be valuable for us to share with the Convenience Store News Canada or OCTANE audiences. Please note that some responses may be published in the magazine or online – we will contact you beforehand.

Also, let us know the industry information you want to hear about. How can we help keep you informed?

Thank you,

Michelle Warren (CSNC Editor) & Kelly Gray (OCTANE Editor)


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For Canadians, food affordability is top agri-food issue in election: Survey

With the upcoming federal election, party leaders have a lot issues on their plates, but food and agriculture may not be one of them.

A recent survey by Angus Reid Global, in partnership with Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, found that only 31% of Canadians believe food and agriculture will be a prime electoral issue. Just 25% of respondents in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario believe food and agriculture will be a key issue, compared to 46% of Quebecers.

“Food and agriculture has never been as hot of an issue as it is now … but when the elections come, people think about other issues like jobs, healthcare and education,” says Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. “These issues are obviously very important, but food and agriculture represents the largest manufacturing sector in the country. Most Canadians spend well over 10% of their budget on food so I think we should talk about it [during elections].”

When asked which agri-food issues deserve more attention during the federal election campaign, food security and affordability ranked number-one, with 60% of Canadians saying it’s an important issue.

Manitoba and the Atlantic region have the most respondents believing food security and affordability is an important election issue in agri-food, both at 68%.

When asked what should be the next government’s priority in agri-food over the next four years, food security and affordability also came out on top, at 55%.

“I think the results point to the fact that people are dealing with stagnant wages and higher consumer debt. People are feeling the pressure,” says Charlebois. “For example, fruit and vegetable prices have gone up 17% this year. If you increase your prices by 3% steadily every year, I don’t think people would mind that much. But when it goes up 17%, people notice.”

The survey also found that the use of plastics in the food industry has clearly caught the attention of voters: 54% of respondents believe the use of plastics in food is an important electoral issue.

Food waste was identified as the third most important agri-food issue for Canadians. A total of 61% of Quebecers believe food waste is an important issue for the upcoming election, compared to 45% in Atlantic Canada.

When it comes to agri-food trade policy, Canada is a “highly divided country,” says Charlebois. The issue of supply management and our quota system ranked the highest in Saskatchewan, with 35% saying it deserves more attention during the election campaign, compared to 32% of Ontarians and 27% of Quebecers.

In Saskatchewan, 51% believe global trades for the agri-food sector is important issue for this campaign, compared to only 19% in Quebec.

“Canada’s breadbasket, which is the Prairies, will see trade very differently than say, Quebec. And that comes out in the survey for sure with supply management,” says Charlebois.

Finally, Canadians were asked which national party is best positioned to support the agri-food sector. The Conservatives are seen as the best national stewards for the agri-food sector, followed by the Liberals and the Green Party. However, the number of respondents who are unsure is very high, at 42% nationwide.

The sample size for the survey was 1,524 from across the country, with a margin of error of less than 3%, 19 times out of 20.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer


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WCSA: Celebrating c-stores’ contribution to communities

Please take a few minutes to help us tell the story about how convenience stores contribute to local and regional causes. Read more