The province could see 9,100 new jobs and multi-billion-dollar economic boost if beer and wine sales are expanded, according to a new report from the Retail Council of Canada.
Karl Littler, senior vice-president of government relations with the retail lobby group, says the nine-page study released Tuesday is aimed at underscoring the convenience for consumers but also the potential job gains.
“We’ve modelled it in two different ways and we actually see job growth through grocery and convenience stores around 9,000 new jobs so that’s significant,” Littler said.
Based on licensed grocery stores reporting an average sales increase of $880,000 per year when they sell beer and wine, the retail group estimates the further expansion would boost the Ontario economy by $3.5 billion annually.
This comes one month after Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government confirmed that the province will be moving ahead with an expansion of beer and wine sales into corner stores, big box stores and more grocery stores.
The report notes that Ontario has 2.4 outlets selling alcohol per 10,000 people, which is well below the national average of 5.9.
“We have the lowest concentration of outlets in the country — we’re talking fewer than 3,000, if you look at the comparable number to Quebec, they have 8000,” Littler said.
Right now, a contract between the province, The Beer Store and three big brewers is in place until the end of 2025.
It limits the number and type of retail outlets that can sell beer in Ontario. Allowing the province’s convenience stores to sell beer would breach the contract.
Industry sources say the government would have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.
Expansion would benefit craft beer industry, brewers claim
Not all agree however.
Beer Store President Ted Moroz called the report “wishful drinking,” saying overall beer sales have actually dropped after becoming available at grocery stores in 2015 and that “virtually no new jobs” have been created as a result.
“The Beer Store employs 7,000 Ontarians across the province whose jobs will be lost by this needless additional and costly expansion,” Moroz said in a statement.
“Why destroy 7,000 well-paying Ontario jobs for no benefit whatsoever?”
But Scott Simmons, president of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association, says the numbers in the report don’t surprise him.
“I was pleased to see it. I think it echoes a lot of the things we’ve already been saying,” Simmons said.
Referencing the success of the craft beer industry as a whole over the last 15 years, Simmons says the growing sector is already creating local jobs and investing in local communities, and this expansion will only increase those opportunities.
“When you start expanding retail access to more grocery stores, big box stores or specialty alcohol stores or convenience stores, you’re just creating more distribution.”
Simmons says currently, grocery stores have the highest market share of craft beer of any of the retail outlets in Ontario.
“If you take those numbers and extrapolate them … you’re going to see that same type of craft market share continuing to grow, so it’ll only mean more sales for our members.”