Coronavirus

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shintriad
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby shintriad » Sat May 09, 2020 12:05 pm

BartOwl wrote:On the other hand, in Ontario specifically, we have bulk buying benefits, since the LCBO is the largest retailer of alcohol in the world. This tends to drive prices down a little.


I hate to be Mr. Contradiction-Face, but the LCBO is not the largest buyer and retailer of beverage alcohol in the world. They are one of the largest, though...they even addressed this in their FAQ back in the day. (Some of the larger European supermarket chains, like Tesco, take that crown.)

I'm also not sure they use their bulk purchasing power to their advantage. It could be apocryphal, or maybe it's changed since then, but I once read that the LCBO wouldn't accept bulk discounts because they'd have to charge less for booze (which is not their mandate). Plus, with their stringent labelling and testing standards, there are a lot of costs carried on to the customer.
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby portwood » Sat May 09, 2020 12:55 pm

shintriad wrote:I hate to be Mr. Contradiction-Face, but the LCBO is not the largest buyer and retailer of beverage alcohol in the world. They are one of the largest, though...they even addressed this in their FAQ back in the day. (Some of the larger European supermarket chains, like Tesco, take that crown.)


LCBO as "largest buyer, blah, blah " is a myth that needs to die. Thank you for pointing this out, I'm tired of seeing it regurgitated ad nauseam

shintriad wrote: ... maybe it's changed since then, but I once read that the LCBO wouldn't accept bulk discounts because they'd have to charge less for booze (which is not their mandate).

This was a finding in an Auditor General report a few years ago. Though LCBO claims they have changed, I'm not convinced. Their pricing policy has more to do with discouraging over consumption (which is promoted through high prices), than taking advantage of their buying volume. In terms of public policy I don't mind the high prices. What pisses me off is, they could be sending even bigger profits back to the provincial coffers if they: a) squeezed the best possible prices from suppliers, and b) stopped spending huge money on advertising.
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby matt7215 » Sat May 09, 2020 1:09 pm

12 years on bartowel, same LCBO problems
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Ontario's (sometimes) liquor retail ghetto

Postby Belgian » Sat May 09, 2020 1:19 pm

portwood wrote:This was a finding in an Auditor General report a few years ago. Though LCBO claims they have changed, I'm not convinced. Their pricing policy has more to do with discouraging over consumption (which is promoted through high prices), than taking advantage of their buying volume.

I don't think the LCBO are a paragon of virtue - while conceding to some extent they do flatten pricing to raise the minimum and also reduce maximum pricing.
But they do still sell very poor products that are coincidentally the cheapest, with little or nothing to compete at the price point - so then what does the minimum pricing accomplish. The product selection at the low end effectively punishes people for not spending more. Not saying that outcome is intentional, but it happens that there are eg. no very affordable wines worth drinking, which is emphatically not the case on other markets & that's really not acceptable or necessary. It happens to work in the bureau's favor in terms of what's extremely easy and profitable for them to buy and sell, at a loss to the captive Ontario consumer.

They often don't appear interested in selling good inexpensive products that undermine the sales of mediocre inexpensive ones, and this appears to bias their product selection (or product exclusion.) This seems purely profit-driven.

(This is really a subject for the LCBO discussion and debate thread. I just wanted to counter the sometimes fallacy of Social Responsibility - and I don't believe that they use mass-buying to optimally benefit consumers or the province.)
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby Coronaeus » Sun May 10, 2020 6:13 am

If buying power doesn’t factor in to some of the LCBO pricing, then how are beers like Rochefort 8 and 10, Sam Adams Utopias, etc. such bargains compared to so many other places?

I was always under the impression that the complaint is that it factors in so inconsistently rather than that it plays no role at all.
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Re: Coronaevirus

Postby Belgian » Sun May 10, 2020 11:00 am

Coronaeus wrote:If buying power doesn’t factor in to some of the LCBO pricing, then how are beers like Rochefort 8 and 10, Sam Adams Utopias, etc. such bargains compared to so many other places?

I was always under the impression that the complaint is that it factors in so inconsistently rather than that it plays no role at all.

Would it not be correct to say these are the far outliers, ie. the LC is politically obligated to deal with representing at least a few them assuming they would just as soon not do so, and these products represent so little sales volume and potential profit anyway that the LC doesn't care about them as a business concern except that they move these SKUs off so they don't hang around in the stores too long and clog up inventory.

It would explain the sometimes puzzling bargain prices on high-scoring, often rare and low-volume beers.

That's beers like Utopias and Drei Fonteine, maybe once Rochefort but I wonder if Rochefort has since crossed over to 'hey we can now sell this in almost any LC store and slowly increase the price each year as a real profit concern.' 10-15 years ago the LC's perception was clearly different, even though we here all believed we knew better (and it's a little vindicating to see progress and change.)

So sometimes we consumers win price-wise, sure but that may consistently remain an outlier scenario.
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby Craig » Sun May 10, 2020 3:47 pm

Marking up on volume instead of price has an impact on stuff like Utopia. They'd be charging like a dollar markup instead of 60 dollars or whatever.

I've always been under the impression they use their buying power a little more aggressively with wine, but I don't know enough to say really. The LCBO have never really taken their beer program particularly seriously, so I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't as much with it.

Another thing to keep in mind is a lot of the product on shelves is brought in by importers, who are the ones who actually set the prices. If they know they can move large volumes on LCBO shelves, they can put in bigger orders from their suppliers, and try to get the discounts anyway. I know a bunch of importers visit these forums, they could probably explain this a lot better than my barely informed supposing.
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby cratez » Mon May 11, 2020 4:48 pm

RE: Coronavirus, the LCBO, and supporting our local brewers.

Since the COVID shutdown started, my beer shopping at traditional outlets has nosedived. I now rely almost exclusively on brewery retail stores and online delivery for craft beer.

Granted, before COVID, I was already purchasing about 85-90 percent of my beer direct from local breweries (mainly Bellwoods, Indie Alehouse, Great Lakes, and Rainhard, because they're awesome and close to work/home). But that number has increased to almost 100 percent during this crisis.

There are several reasons for this, ranging from hours and convenience, to product freshness, to the long lineups being witnessed at some liquor stores.

To their credit, breweries like the ones mentioned above have quickly responded to COVID with excellent, mostly contact-free setups for purchasing beer in-store or curbside, with convenient hours, zero lineups (from what I've encountered, anyway), and of course product that is as fresh as it can possibly be.

Others like Left Field have developed super easy online ordering and delivery processes. I recently ordered from LF in the early evening and got my beer the next afternoon, and they're located on the opposite end of town. Not saying that's a typical experience, but I was very impressed regardless.

Makes me wonder whether we'll see broader changes coming out of this.
Last edited by cratez on Thu May 21, 2020 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby Bobsy » Tue May 12, 2020 1:03 pm

I'd love to see a breakdown on how breweries are affected by this. I read a CBC article about how some brewers couldn't keep their online stores stocked because of unprecedented demand. Of course, that's coupled with keg sales disappearing and probably temporarily laying off a huge chunk of staff. Its the bars I worry about more, even though I rarely go to one any more. I'd expect demand to be lower once everywhere reopens and how on earth does social distancing impact the number of folks who can be in the building? I guess we can also say goodbye to big festivals like TFOB and Cask Days until the green light is given. Weird times... never thought I'd see anything like this in my lifetime.

Lot of conversation about how much better we are right now, but one thing to note about the Ontario beer scene is that it's still very spotty. I think you can consistently find quality around the Golden Horseshoe, and I'd be happy drinking in Ottawa now (I used to head over to Gatineau instead). Beyond that, it's hit and miss. 1.3 million people in York Region and the quality is thin on the ground. Rouge River is decent, if a little pricy, and there are a couple okay options in Newmarket, but unless I'm missing something there's not a whole lot else out there. I think of these big cities ringing T.O. and its like its still 1990. Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham - quality-wise none of them can remotely be compared to Toronto or any places big or small I've visited stateside. It also strikes me that the LCBO experience is different up here too. There's excellent brews to be had, but limited rotation and few stores that are part of the seasonal release program. Thank God for online ordering...
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby Craig » Tue May 12, 2020 1:44 pm

I doubt that alcohol consumption has gone down much, so I think the brewers will survive this generally speaking. But the demand is so different now. Pretty much zero kegs going out the door, but probably a lot more cans/bottles. Rejigging their production to fill cans instead of kegs must be a pain, but it's not insurmountable. There are probably some smaller breweries that are hurting though, if they don't have their own canning/bottling lines and were relying on tied house and keg sales. That would hurt lots.

When I was in the grocery store about a month ago buying beer, I noticed that all the stock on the shelves was fresher than normal. Like normally you'd have bottles that are 3, 4, 5 months old in the fridges. But when I was looking there everything was at most a month old. At the same time, local breweries were practically giving kegs away if you wanted one.

Oh man, I wonder how many old, stale kegs we're going to get treated to on draught lines when bars reopen?
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby seangm » Tue May 12, 2020 2:02 pm

Bobsy wrote:I'd love to see a breakdown on how breweries are affected by this. I read a CBC article about how some brewers couldn't keep their online stores stocked because of unprecedented demand. Of course, that's coupled with keg sales disappearing and probably temporarily laying off a huge chunk of staff. Its the bars I worry about more, even though I rarely go to one any more. I'd expect demand to be lower once everywhere reopens and how on earth does social distancing impact the number of folks who can be in the building? I guess we can also say goodbye to big festivals like TFOB and Cask Days until the green light is given. Weird times... never thought I'd see anything like this in my lifetime.

Lot of conversation about how much better we are right now, but one thing to note about the Ontario beer scene is that it's still very spotty. I think you can consistently find quality around the Golden Horseshoe, and I'd be happy drinking in Ottawa now (I used to head over to Gatineau instead). Beyond that, it's hit and miss. 1.3 million people in York Region and the quality is thin on the ground. Rouge River is decent, if a little pricy, and there are a couple okay options in Newmarket, but unless I'm missing something there's not a whole lot else out there. I think of these big cities ringing T.O. and its like its still 1990. Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham - quality-wise none of them can remotely be compared to Toronto or any places big or small I've visited stateside. It also strikes me that the LCBO experience is different up here too. There's excellent brews to be had, but limited rotation and few stores that are part of the seasonal release program. Thank God for online ordering...


I think that's a pretty good point regarding the spottiness, there are some surprising dead zones for decent breweries even in places with bigger populations. Half of Durham is like that too, while Whitby is packed with breweries and Oshawa even has one, there's practically nothing in Ajax and Pickering. The other thing I find too is that when it comes to bars and restaurants there is still a surprising amount of places that don't have any local options on tap, the best they can do is typically the "crafty" stuff like Mill St and Goose Island. In contrast, in my experience anyway, in the US you can find decent local stuff pretty much anywhere nowadays.

Now, to tie this into Covid-19 since that is the topic of the thread- perhaps people who aren't regular craft drinkers have also been taking advantage of online ordering/shipping deals and are trying out some local breweries. It's wishful thinking but maybe there'll be interest from a wider range of beer drinkers that will lead to increased demand for local options at bars and restaurants when this is all over.
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby Bobsy » Tue May 12, 2020 3:56 pm

seangm wrote:Now, to tie this into Covid-19 since that is the topic of the thread- perhaps people who aren't regular craft drinkers have also been taking advantage of online ordering/shipping deals and are trying out some local breweries. It's wishful thinking but maybe there'll be interest from a wider range of beer drinkers that will lead to increased demand for local options at bars and restaurants when this is all over.


I'm also hoping that different purchasing habits during COVID might accelerate some of the positive changes that we were already seeing in retail. My local grocery store seems to be moving through its craft beer stock far more quickly than ever before, so my fingers are crossed that it demonstrates the viability of a broad selection and also that some new locals are getting into good beer. Secondly, we already had a lot of brewers do online sales, but it looks like a good number more have entered the fray. This is fantastic news for those of us with limited local options. Also alcohol delivery with a meal sounds like a fantastic addition. I like to think that the freeing up of the distribution system and expansion of non-LCBO and Beer Store sales will contribute to shaking it all up. A city like Vaughan has a third of a million people - it supports a couple dozen mediocre LCBOs, and I think it could quite easily support one quality bottle shop.
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby Belgian » Tue May 12, 2020 8:32 pm

cratez wrote:...the long lineups being witnessed at some liquor stores.


OK, note their response - the LCBO has set a limit on people in the store (good) and also shortened store hours (to an unnecessary extent) AND also closed up shop two days a week (kind of arbitrary and poor planning.) Plus they close extra days for stat holidays (note that over Easter, the LCBO stores were actuslly closed five out of nine consecutive days. Hence, lines all around the parking lots.)

Mostly all they have done is created scarcity and unnecessarily forced customers to stand in lines near to each other for often at least 15-30 minutes. This is an organization first / customers last mindset. Their main concern is protecting staff, not society (and some staff that have to work complain that everyone at LCBO headquarters has fled their post.)

This shows that such a stubborn bureaucracy can't respond sensibly to a pandemic and serve our interests as well as its own. I of course believe the LCBO will survive, by leaning on its bureaucratic muscle and perhaps establishing a bunch of smaller stores everywhere. But it is also constantly being undermined by alternatives that will continue to thrive.

TLDR: continue supporting brewers directly & through grocery stores.
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby portwood » Thu May 14, 2020 7:17 am

Belgian wrote:This is an organization first / customers last mindset. Their main concern is protecting staff, not society.

I agree with your first point but protecting staff is not a concern for their safety as much as a concern not to piss off the union.

The union is doing their job, and this situation is a perfectly good example of why unions are still valuable - to protect workers! A similar thing is going on at Canada Post, where they decided to take beer packages straight to post office locations rather than knocking on door, stepping back, visual confirmation of age, then leaving box on doorstep (forcing non-union store employees even more physical contact than what other courier companies are doing).

The pre-pay and store pickup system they've implemented recently is a good idea but a) took them forever to implement, b) available at limited number of locations, and c) it took me the same amount of time to pick up a box than if I had gone to the shelves to gather up my beer/wine and pay at the counter. So, yes the LCBO is stuck in their bureaucratic ways and very slow to adapt and implement change.

One thing LCBO would be doing if they were a private company is what breweries are doing with "idle" labour - delivering packages straight to customers. They won't/can't do this BECAUSE they are a bureaucratic monopoly: existing rules don't allow them to do it and they're not willing to bend or lobby for those rules to be (temporarily?) loosened.
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Craig
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Re: Coronavirus

Postby Craig » Thu May 14, 2020 7:25 am

The LCBO do deliver though, they just do it through Canada Post. They rolled out Foodora for their stuff too, but i think got caught off guard when Foodora left Canada.

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