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Now is the time for expanded packaged beverage alcohol retailing in the Maritimes

Year over year, Atlantic Canadians are the most supportive of the convenience and choice.
Mike Hammoud Convenience Industry Council of Canada
Mike Hammoud, Convenience Industry Council of Canada’s vice-president, Atlantic Division

First Ontario. Next Alberta. Then the Maritimes. 

No, those aren’t the lyrics from a Stompin’ Tom Connors song. Rather, it’s either wishful thinking or the likely rollout of the retail sales of beverage alcohol in the c-store channel across Canada.

Let’s hope it’s the latterit’s about time. In fact, it’s long overdue. 

While Canada’s largest province committed to the retail sale of beers, coolers and ready-to-drink beverages on convenience shelves no later than January 1, 2026, Alberta is now planning to follow suit. It’s time that the Maritime provinces jumped on the bandwagon.

Year over year, Atlantic Canadians are the most supportive of the convenience and choice. CICC’s latest data reveals that 79% of Atlantic Canadians are in favour of having beverage alcohol alongside chips and salty snacks in our stores. 

Giving consumers what they want to ensure satisfied customers is priority number one in this new age of convenience post COVID-19. Competition for consumer dollars has never been stronger and the onus is on retailers to diversify their product mix and meet customer demand.

As the vice-president of Atlantic Canada, “when” not “if” beverage alcohol being approved for sale in our channel is most asked question when I visit member stores. And that’s not surprising when you consider the challenging economic times retailers are weathering on Canada’s East Coast: 3 stores closing their doors every week, stagnant sales and fewer employees. 

Introducing beverage alcohol in our stores would be a game changer for our industry. Data provided by Nielsen IQ shows that beer (sold in depanneurs in Quebec as well as c-stores in Newfoundland and Labrador) is the fastest-growing as well as the second-top grossing product category in our channel for the past four years. And those figures are only based on total sales in Quebec. 

The increased foot traffic generated by alcoholic products on our shelves would also create a ripple effect and boost the sale of many other products in addition to redefining convenience as the one-stop shop for consumers. 

Imagine stopping by a convenience store to pick up some salty snacks, a six pack of cold beer and some ready-to-drink coolers on your way home to watch the game from the comfort of your couch.  Get what you want, when you want ita premise that is core to convenience.

But it’s not just retailers and consumers who would benefit. According to research by the economic consulting firm Cascadia Partners, the retail sale of beverage alcohol in the convenience channel in Nova Scotia would be a boost to the local economy by creating up to 1,100 new jobs while increasing annual wages between $20 to $26 million. 

It would also boost government coffers by approximately $13 million (half of which would go directly to the province).  While the numbers would be different, the overall results would be the same in both PEI and New Brunswick.

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It’s what we at CICC describe as a win-win-win scenario. 

Undoubtedly, what works in Quebec is different than what will work in Ontario versus what a successful retail model of the sale of beverage alcohol would look like in Alberta. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution here. 

Developing a retail model that makes sense in PEI, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would, to some degree, be the same yet different, because the Maritime provinces, while many common attributes as a region, are unique individually. 

And it will take some sweat equity to develop a comprehensive solution that includes robust regulations, effective enforcement mechanisms, and ongoing evaluation of outcomes is essential to strike a balance between economic growth, consumer convenience, and responsible packaged beverage alcohol retailing.

Local nuances with regional benefits is the best way to describe finding a customized solution in the Maritimes. 

While our industry has been advocating for this for at least a decade across the country, we always knew that this was a game of dominoesit would take one province to make the move and others would follow.

The dominoes are now falling across the country. And the Premiers of the Maritime provinces need to take the initiative and borrow from a Stompin’ Tom songit’s time to start the Maritime Waltz, together. 

Mike Hammoud is the Convenience Industry Council of Canada’s Vice President, Atlantic Division.

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