Meet the Mayor
November 14, 2013
You might think it strange that I, a teetotaller from my youth up, would be commenting on the advantages or disadvantages of selling beer and wine in grocery stores. (I could burden you with what I really think of the merits or demerits of the idea but I resist as alcohol distribution is a provincial matter.) You may have heard that the government of British Columbia, after much persuasion, is considering the concept and Minister Yap is assessing the statements of those who have submitted their pros or cons and is considering his options.
One of the options, it seems to be the favoured option at the moment, is to create within the grocery store a mini beer and wine store with its own staff, a store within a store. The option of simply putting the booze on the shelves with the toasties and cheese crumbles does not seem to have support in the Ministry at this time.
The store within a store model would also cap the number of outlets at the number of outlets existing at the time the new policy goes into effect. I am assuming that this means that a community with one beer and wine outlet would be entitled to one store within a grocery store. In the case of our home town, I interpret the information to mean that Chetwynd would be eligible for two stores within two grocery stores.
In addition to the problems I see embedded in the whole scheme, I see a number of issues that should be causing retailers to pay close attention as the project unfolds. For example, if a retailer chooses not to opt for a store within a store, how will the grocery traffic in that store be affected? Will customers be attracted to the store with the beer and wine outlet for the convenience of one-stop shopping? Will existing loyalties be maintained in spite of the new attractions?
Beer and wine outlets have been available in grocery stores in Britain and the United States for many years and several jurisdictions in Canada have introduced one or another model for distribution of alcohol through grocery stores. It must work for some communities and I have no personal stake in one model or another. Since I am a teetotaller you could probably guess my need for another outlet anywhere.
My question to you that I think you should be addressing with the Ministry: Exactly how will the new regulations affect my business if I choose not to participate in the store within a store scheme?
For grocery retailers still having questions or concerns regarding the proposal, the best avenue for getting the ear of government would be to speak to our MLA, Mike Bernier, as the date for commenting directly has passed, and if you are just Citizen Peter or Citizen Mary the same route is open to you. Mr. Bernier has a better chance than anyone else to corner the Minister.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor