Opinion Column

No price relief in supermarket booze sales

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours



Beer, wine and spirits are coming to B.C. supermarkets next year, but don’t expect cheaper booze. If anything, what is already among North America’s highest-priced alcohol will only get more expensive.

Consumers say they would love the convenience of supermarket sales but that thrill may be gone when prices stay the same or likely go higher than in B.C. government liquor stores.

The reality of BC Liberal changes is to make booze easier to access but prices harder to swallow.

So forget about this province becoming like Washington state or Europe, with giant supermarket chains offering deep discounts on your favourite beverage.

Victoria’s real goal is simply to increase total sales by making it easier to buy, not cheaper.

The only way most prices could drop is if government reduced its $1 billion annual booze profits – and that ain’t gonna happen.

And since most private liquor stores charge $2, $3 or much more than government rates, without a wholesale price drop retail prices will stay sky high.

In fact, there is literally nothing in the B.C. liquor review that would give even faint hope to thirsty drinkers of any cut to the high cost of quaffing.

Most future sales in supermarkets will be in a “store within a store” model with liquor separated from groceries.

And some B.C. Vintners Quality Alliance-certified wines will, at some point, be sold directly on grocery store shelves though details aren’t yet clear.

The price gap between B.C. and other jurisdictions is stunning.

One example: Perrin Cote Du Rhone Reserve red wine sells for $17.95 a bottle in B.C. Liquor Stores, but $16.50 in Quebec government liquor stores and $15.95 in Ontario. It’s only $13 a bottle in a private Alberta store if you buy a case of 12 and just $11.10 Canadian at Binny’s in Chicago — or $10.54 a bottle if you buy a case!

And while occasionally a B.C. bottle is cheaper, overall prices are very high in both public and private stores.

So, government “modernizes” liquor laws, booze arrives in grocery stores, and yet the prices will only go up not down.

Drink that irony in.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman



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