Convenience stores matter. Whether it’s weathering challenging times like a pandemic, floods, forest fires or taking a family trip during tourism season or even simply Canadians going about their daily lives, the local convenience store is a fixture of communities from coast to coast.
As one of the most regulated industries in the nation, the viability of c-stores is closely linked to decisions governments make. And governments need to understand that their policies have a direct impact on our industry’s ability to survive and thrive, because it impacts not just retailers, but the entire convenience supply chain.
And, there’s a common thread across the country on the issues that impact our stores and the communities and neighbourhoods they serve. When governments restrict the products we can sell, overtax them, burden us with red tape or fail to address community safety, it has a huge impact on our stores, our frontline workers and the communities we serve.
That’s why our consistent message to governments all across the country is simple: “When Convenience Stores Do Well, Communities Do Well.” We reinforce this message in several ways, but one key opportunity to share our industry’s concerns is through the pre-budget process, which wrapped up recently.
The CICC team across the country has submitted, presented and met with decision makers in every province as well as on Parliament Hill. While there will always be some specific issues that might be a little more unique to a specific jurisdiction, common themes emerge. They all fall under the CICC’s overarching goal to “Champion the convenience industry’s role in our communities and work for a business environment where all convenience businesses can succeed."
Advocacy, along with building influence via public awareness of the convenience channel and its role in our communities, are the ways in which we meet this overarching goal. So what are those common areas of focus that we are pushing for in our pre-budget submissions?
Credit card fees, federal excise taxes, beverage alcohol and battling contraband tobacco are the issues that we have asked government to act upon.
Regardless of the product category you may sell in the channel, we have a shared interest in pushing governments to fix these problems. Many of the issues are long-standing and several white papers and numerous consultation forums later, we are no further ahead. That’s why it is critical for all of us, collectively, to advocate for a better business environment—to tell the industry’s story.
Contraband costs us all. Retailers are reporting double-digit decrease in tobacco sales as compared to 2022. The contraband tobacco market now accounts for upwards of 30% of the entire market. The ability to sell beverage alcohol in our channel would be a game changer for the industry. In our latest State of the Industry Report, beer is the fastest growing and second overall largest product category and those sales are only from one province—Quebec. Retailers have seen a 55% increase in credit card fees the last 12 months and that expense has now moved into the second-highest cost of doing business for c-stores, behind real estate.
The issues are many and the headwinds are strong, especially when you consider that garnering effective to change to Canada’s payment system is transforming more than 30 years of the status quo of high profits in the Canadian banking system.
While we would all love to see immediate action on these issues, effective advocacy is a long-term game where consistency is key. However, one thing is clear, CICC will continue to be a strong and credible advocate in every corner of the country. We are in your corner and on your corner.
When convenience stores do well, we all do well.