Tuesday, the good folks behind the curiously named @ONBeerFacts Twitter account reached out to me for the first time. In response to my last blog post, they directed me to a news release I missed in February, while I was away.
Cleverly titled “There Is No Hidden Agenda”: Convenience Stores Would Raise The Price of Beer” it warns against evils like having to pay a bit more to buy from the family that operates the store on my corner.
Like the C-Stores themselves, I’m not disputing that beer might cost a bit more if I can pick it up 300 steps from my home on a long weekend. If I’m paying an extra buck or two, it still beats cab fare to and from my least inconvenient Beer Store or LCBO… whenever they re-open.
What’s really curious about the media release however, is the piece at the bottom that warns of the more dire consequences of opening the system to competition. I’m not just talking about the inane think-of-the-children! fear-mongering. It’s the part just after that – the bit that suggests if convenience stores sell alcohol it would “eliminate 7,000 well-paying Beer Store jobs…”
Wait… what? What?
Is the Beer Store threatening to close if it doesn’t get its way, or is this an acknowledgement it doesn’t feel it can compete in a fair and honest marketplace?
It seems that a well established entity that already boasts 450 locations, its own distribution network and owners who inexpensively produce most of its inventory should have no problem continuing profitably in the face of less organized, independently owned shops that don’t manufacture their own product. If the Beer Store chooses to raise prices at its own locations, it’s simply motivated by profit.
Like most statements coming out of The Beer Store, the 7,000 jobs threat is a diversion. It’s a scare tactic. No consumer should care if convenience stores charge more if they still have the option to buy cheaper where they already shop. By raising the spectre of closing down (which the convenience stores are not asking for), the Beer Store hopes to leave the impression that Ontarians would be stuck with higher prices. It’s desperate and intentionally misleading.
If the Beer Store has anyone to fear it’s the bigger grocery stores, which have sat by quietly through all the debate. They also have efficient distribution networks, a wealth of experience in competitive environments and solid marketing budgets. In Alberta, they also have better prices, despite 20+ years of privatized mayhem.