WE DID IT! A toast the convenience industry

It’s time to raise your beer mug (or your ready-to-drink cocktail!) and toast Ontario’s convenience industry.
Anne Kothawala
President & CEO, CICC
Anna Kothawala
Anne Kothawala with Doug Ford

We did it. 

For almost 10 years, we have been advocating for corner stores and gas stations to sell beverage alcohol products. After all, other provinces have been retailing alcohol in c-stores for years, without issue, so why not Ontario? 

In 2018, we had hope as Conservative Leader Doug Ford campaigned on a promise to bring beverage alcohol to convenience and grocery stores if elected. The new government’s initial attempt to cancel the Master Framework Agreement (MFA) in 2019 combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, both derailed the government’s ultimate plan, but CICC ensured that the Premier never forgot his promise.

 Last week, I had the privilege of joining Premier Ford, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, and Parliamentary Assistant Rick Byers to announce that the government would be allowing beer, wine, coolers and ready-to-drink beverages in convenience stores and gas stations by January 2026. Here is a link to CICC’s statement on the announcement.

This marks a milestone for Canada’s largest province and an industry that accounts for $16.7 billion in sales and employs almost 66,000 residents.  Ontarians will now have the convenience they want, while thousands of Ontario retailers and alcohol producers will have new opportunities to secure and grow their businesses.

According to economic research prepared for CICC by Cascadia Partners, the retail expansion of beverage alcohol will result in an additional 9,300 new jobs in the province. Already, in terms of national sales, beer is the fastest-growing category and second overall top grossing product in the convenience channel, and that’s from sales solely in Quebec.

Expanding the sale of beverage alcohol products in our channel is a true win-win-win: for convenience stores, for local producers, and for consumers. 

It will increase foot traffic which means more eyes on other products, including confectionary, food, and beverages. Most importantly however, this makes us a one-stop shop again, returning the word convenience to convenience stores. Families can now pick up a bottle of wine, beer, a couple of coolers, some soft drinks, and a bag of chips to watch a Leafs or Raptors game without making multiple stops.

 This milestone is a direct result of CICC’s and our members’ advocacy, persistence and pressure. Without our continued campaigns over the past decade, and CICC’s push over the past 12 months, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

 Since January, we have been leading a renewed push to get beer, wine, coolers, and ready-to-drink beverages into our local stores. We worked with our members to build a retail framework and presented it to the Premier and his government. 

And our message was heard loud and clear. Each of our proposals around pricing/margins, distribution, recycling, licensing, and product selection were enacted by the Ford government. 

Here are the key points:

  • Full expansion with no winners and losers like the LCBO Agency model.
  • An exemption for many of our stores from the deposit return program.
  • Hybrid distribution which allows The Beer Store to distribute their products and craft producers to select how they distribute theirs.
  • No uniform pricing for convenience stores and no ceiling for retail price.
  • A variety of products and sizes, including beer, wine, coolers and ready-to-drink beverages, will be available.

The government will be consulting with the industry in the coming months on a new wholesale price, as well as the taxes and fees which will ultimately determine our margins.

During the announcement, both Premier Ford and Minister Bethlenfalvy acknowledged the need for competitive pricing that makes sense for business and consumers. CICC will continue to work on behalf of the industry as it will play a leadership role working through the details. 

CICC will use the win here as a strong, tangible example of what can be done in other provinces like Nova Scotia where antiquated rules still prevent the sale of beverage alcohol in the c-store channel. 

While there is reason to celebrate, there is still work to be done to ensure our industry is in the best position to succeed. This includes ensuring a successful rollout on beverage alcohol as well CICC’s ongoing advocacy on credit card fees, food and beverage labeling restrictions, and contraband tobacco.

As our tagline states, we’re on corners across Canada and in your corner, fighting for you.  

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