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12/03/2020

OCSA update: End-of-year notes from 2020

OCSA president & CEO Dave Bryans

2020 has been a challenging year for all retailers in Ontario. Throughout it, the OCSA has been proud to work with the government to ensure that the entire convenience industry is recognized as an essential service. As a result, our sector has avoided some of the unfortunate circumstances many other retailers have had to face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is extremely important that every convenience store in Ontario continues to practice strict protocols as we persevere through this, including prioritization of customer and employee face masks, safety shields, customer limits in stores, directional arrows and sanitation stations.

First impressions are important and customers will only return to their local convenience store if they feel safe and welcomed at the same time. Let’s make every effort!

Here are some of the highlights of a most unprecedented year:

Tobacco – No tax increases from either the federal or  provincial governments. There is a commitment in the Ontario budget to address contraband tobacco as the OCSA continues to work with the Tobacco Strategy Project office on this important and illegal issue.

Lottery – During the last six months, convenience stores continue to support the sale of lottery tickets accounting for almost 85% of all ticket sales (versus 74%) and have collected over $220 million in collective commissions working closely with the OLG. It is no secret that the OCSA has approached the government to increase our commission base on ticket sales and we will keep you updated as we move through the process.

Gas & Dash – 2020 has seen growing gas drive-offs and thefts with little support from local police services due to the sheer number of thefts taking place in every community. We have supported a private members Bill #231 to make pre-pay at the pumps mandatory in every community. The two exemptions would be that stations with old pumps (technology) would not be required to upgrade to comply and only would need to do so when they install new pumps. Full-serve gas sites would be exempt as there is always an attendant at the pumps.

LCBO Convenience Agency Stores – We continue to work with the LCBO on the roll-out of additional family-run agency stores in rural communities giving great access to beverage alcohol as we await the approval of the Ministry of Finance to roll out Beer and wine to all convenience stores in the province.

Beer & Wine – The government has assured the association that we are still scheduled to roll out beer and wine in the convenience store channel and the OCSA continues to meet with the government on the process. This has been a frustrating time lag for all convenience stores as we await the three major beer companies to settle on the MFA agreement and become partners with the convenience store industry as demonstrated in all other communities in North America.

Independent Stores – Over the last two years the OCSA has focused on how we can help our thousands of family-run stores to be as competitive in the marketplace as possible. We are proud to be preparing to roll out Paygos to all stores in Ontario starting in January 2021 in the GTA. This will allow all retailers the opportunity to have best pricing, free delivery and promotions through a coordinated web portal.

We Expect ID – Congratulations to all retailers in Ontario for being the best at age-testing young people for tobacco, vape products and lottery demonstrating a pass rate of over 96%. Please be vigilant and aggressive during COVID-19 when it comes to photo ID and customers wearing masks. Better to refuse the sale if there is any doubt about the ID presented by the customer and this is a great time to remind all staff of procedures.

Support Ontario Made – As we march through these difficult time, we encourage all Ontario convenience stores to make every effort to support Ontario made products, Ontario suppliers and distributors to our channel to encourage customers in our stores to also help our local economy get back on its feet. May I suggest we set up an Ontario products section in our stores.