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Powerhouse convenience store chain calls Ontario's Beer Store 'obsolete'

The founder of one of Canada’s biggest convenience store operators wants in on a proposed plan to liberalize Ontario’s beer and wine sales, knocking the province’s decades-old system dominated by the Beer Store and LCBO.

“The Beer Store concept is obsolete,” Alain Bouchard, the founder and chairman of Alimentation Couche-Tard (ATDb.TO) tells BNN.

The Beer Store – privately held by brewing giants Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors and Japan’s Sapporo holds 80% market share of Ontario’s beer market – and holds a monopoly on any beer sales in larger volumes than a six-pack.

The Ontario Liberal government wants to introduce full aisles of beer and wine only into select grocery stores, leaving the convenience store industry feeling shafted.

“Chain convenience stores have more experience selling alcohol than any other private retailer. We do this responsibly and it’s something we’re going to keep talking about because it’s important to our customers and our industry,” says the Ontario Convenience Store Association in an e-mailed statement to BNN.

The spinoff effects, Bouchard argues, would be greater for convenience stores than grocery stores as many would have to upgrade their cooler systems and also invest in growing the store footprint. Bouchard claims grocery stores would not have to spend much to accommodate adding a single category.

“It’s 2015,” says Bouchard. “The convenience store industry [in Ontario] would invest heavily in adding beer and wine.”

Beer and wine typically make up 10 to 20 percent of Couche-Tard’s of total per-store sales in the regions of Canada where alcohol is permitted to be sold by convenience stores.

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