Liquor Updates: Wholesale Pricing

November 22, 2014 § 8 Comments

My phone was ringing off the hook prior to and after the announcement by Suzanne Anton and the GM for the BC Liquor Distribution Branch. The biggest, and really only, question is ‘What does this mean?’

There is a ton to talk about as the announcement involved Grocery Stores, Wholesale Pricing, Separation of LDB Retail from Wholesale, perhaps the item that will have the most short and long term impact is Wholesale Pricing.

Wholesale Pricing

Current System

Currently BC Liquor Stores do not purchase product from the Wholesale division of the BCLDB. They simply order it, it arrives and they retail it. Private stores do pay LDB Wholesale for their product. The price is a function of the BC Liquor Store retail price. In other words a discounted retail price is what private stores pay. The discount is based on the license type. Licensed Retail Stores (LRS) receive a 16% discount off retail, while Private Wine Stores (Everything Wine, Marquis, etc.) receive at 30% discount on import wine, 15% on domestic wine and cider and are prevented from retailing beer or spirits. Rural Agency Stores (RAS) receive a 12% but are not allowed to carry anything but BC Liquor Store skus. These stores are usually in small rural communities.

Wholesale System

As of April 1, 2015 a new pricing model will be adopted that will apply to all liquor retailers in the province. The price will be a true wholesale price and not a discount from BC Liquor Store retail. As of this writing it appears that pricing will be a function of product type and not be a flat tax as it is in Alberta. What this means is that there will not be a standard price. All retailers, including BC Liquor Stores, will have the choice to retail at any price they choose.

Key Omissions

  1. The new wholesale pricing structure will not be afforded to on-premise (restaurants, hotels, bars) accounts. On-premise accounts will continue to pay full retail and only from BC Liquor Stores or domestic suppliers.
  2. Private Wine Stores will not be allowed to add beer, spirits or coolers to their selection, but will pay the same price for all their products as all other retailers. In other words they are losing a 14% product cost advantage over LRS stores without gaining product options. I would guess that this might change between now and April 1.
  3. At present BC Liquor Stores can solicit advertising, or co-op dollars from suppliers, whereas it is illegal for private stores to do the same. If we are talking about a true level playing field, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.
  4. In the current system when a supplier reduces their price, the supplier ‘buys down’ all the inventory on-hand and incoming for BC Liquor Stores for the duration of the price reduction. It is illegal for suppliers to buy down inventory at private stores. Once again, what’s good for the goose…
  5. Speculative Listings: Under the current system BC Liquor Stores are forbidden from putting ‘Spec Listings’ on their shelves. This was done to offset the huge discrepancy in cost of goods between BC Liquor Stores and private stores and give private stores a ‘selection’ edge. Presumably under a wholesale system, speculative listings will be scrapped.

Impact: Consumer Pricing

With all retailers paying the same price for goods it will likely encourage greater competition which, for the consumer, could mean greater selection, although I’m not certain this will be come to pass, but it will likely mean greater price variation, competition and, I believe that this will be in the form of price agility.

At present BC Liquor Store can only change their prices once per month. Private stores can change their prices daily and thus be far more strategic about the timing and value of sale pricing. There are hundreds of shelves in business schools filled with thousands of books and papers dedicated to pricing strategy- agility is the winner hands down. With this in mind I suggest that everyday prices will remain relatively the same, however BC Liquor Stores are likely to start doing ‘one-day’ or ‘this weekend only’ sales which will trigger a market wide long-term response.

It is well known that British Columbians pay the highest prices in Canada and these changes ensure that this will continue. The structure will continue to be ad-volerum vs flat tax (see below for definitions of each) which means that low end products are price favoured while premium priced items are penalized. Alberta is a flat tax and that is why a product priced $70 will likely only be $50 in Alberta.

Addendum Nov. 27: We now know the graduated mark-up schedule in totality. Consumers will not likely see any differences in wine under $20 or spirits under $30, however for those that purchase at the premium end of the scale, the new model promises significant price hikes the value of which increases as the price of the product increases.

Impact: Selection

The argument was made during the announcements that overall selection would be improved. I have doubts that this will happen unless you consider 3 new sizes of Budweiser or brand extensions of Copper Moon and positive increase in selection.

Above I mentioned the doing away with Speculative listings. If this is the case, then you will likely see a plethora of new items on the shelves in BC Liquor Stores, however overall provincial selection will not likely change that much.

Addendum Nov. 27: The graduated mark-up schedule will likely negatively impact the selection of premium wines and spirits in BC. Price hikes on premium wine and spirits will significantly slow sales, meaning that importers and suppliers are likely to redirect offerings to other markets where sales are likely to be better.

Definitions

Ad-Volerum: An ad-volerum tax system is one that adds a percentage tax to the cost of goods instead of a consistent dollar value. In the new system that starts April 1, 2015 the tax on wine will start at 89% (there will be graduated values on premium and super premium wines). 89% on a wine that starts at $3 a bottle has means the government receives $2.67 in tax. 89% mark-up on a wine that starts at $6 is $5.34. In this simple calculation (prior to PST, GST, Volume mark-ups, etc.) a wine that starts at $3 would retail at $5.67/bottle whereas the $6 bottle would retail at $11.34/bottle; a difference of $8.67 which only $3 is found in the product cost.

Flat Tax: A flat tax is consistent dollar value applied to every bottle no matter the value of the bottle. In a flat tax system, the only price difference between a $3 bottle and $6 bottle is $3 as the tax value is the same for each bottle. For example in a system with a flat tax of $2/bottle the $3 bottle would retail at $5 and the $6 bottle would retail at $8.

Attached is the pdf outlining the new wholesale pricing model as issued by the BCLDB.

Mark-Up Schedule Effective April 1 2015 (2)

I would love to hear your feedback so please engage.

May Quality Be Ever In Your Glass

The DorkUncorked

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The Liquor File – The Whole Pie

November 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

This weeks announced changes to the liquor industry in B.C. will go into effect on April 1, 2015, but already their impact is being felt.

Social & traditional media has been jammed with calculations, prophecies and conjecture and, full disclosure, I have been apart of it to. However, after a Facebook conversation this morning I took a step back to get a broader perspective.

We have to remember that none of these changes will change the size and value of the market. If anything all they will do is divide the ‘pie’ into more pieces and shift value around.

It is no secret that BC Liquor Stores have been losing share to private stores each year for the last 10 years. Creating a level pricing field is likely the only way that this trend could be reversed using legitimate means. I expect that BC Liquor Stores will start to act like a large grocery concern and leverage their position to either mitigate costs or corner the market on certain products. This could mean disaster for many of BC’s private liquor stores who rely on price and product agility combined with well oiled marketing machines, but it won’t mean any more money into government coffers.

The other big announcement leads to further splintering of the market. Allowing liquor in grocery stores, no matter how it is done, will not lead to any greater revenues for the province or any increased sales for suppliers. It just means that there are more places for consumers to buy booze.

I truly hope that the quality of liquor retailing in BC will improve and I hope that these changes will instill a spirit of continued improvement, however these changes will not change the fact that we pay the highest prices in the country, and it is certain, that they will only mean the pie is divided in more ways.

I would love to hear your comments and feedback so please engage.

I will also be writing a piece specific to Wholesale Pricing so look for that.

May Quality Be Ever In Your Glass

The DorkUncorked.

Competitive Edge

September 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

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The only real competitive edge that private liquor retailers have in BC is their product selection. The absolute risky-est position to be in is having a photo-copy of a government store in terms of selection. As a private liquor retailer I have found that the only way for me to best maintain my market share, or to make it grow, is by walking the fine line between listed and spec products.

By having about 40% (and growing) of the products on our shelf that are only available at our stores or in other private retailers, allows me to 1) clearly distinguishes me from government stores, 2) have more control of my margins while maintaining price confidence with the customer, 3) Allows me to focus on customer service in the form of product knowledge, 4) means I can truly say we are professionals.

Why do you choose the lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant, personal trainer, hair stylist, plumber, etc. that you do? Part of the answer comes in your belief that they are qualified professionals that have spent hundreds of hours being an expert at solving problems that you have in their area of expertise. Chances are you have found them by referral or by meeting them. They conveyed an air of professionalism and confidence that you have come to trust and that trust has always been vindicated. For us in private liquor retail it is no different. What kind of confidence will your customer have in you if your selection says ‘I don’t know anything about this beer/wine/spirit and I don’t care, I just want you to buy it. All I know is that someone told me it sold well”? You need to be their ‘doctor’ of wine, beer and spirits. Your selection should say “in your case I would I’m going to prescribe this wine over that one. That one will work for you to but I think that for today this is the best choice.”

Customer loyalty comes from developing personal relationships and sharing your customers day to day successes and failures, feelings of confidence and defeat, feeling great or suffering from a cold. By saying “I know just the perfect comfort food wine for you, you can’t find it everywhere, but I loved its depth of flavour and boldness of body” you are telling your customer that you care about them. The old saying “I don’t care what you know until I know that you care” is so true when comes to developing lifetime customers in our business. Your selection is your customers silent witness to how much you care about them.

There are hundreds if not thousands of items available right now that offer 40% and 50% margins, are priced for the average joe and blow the doors off the leading brands in terms of quality. It takes work and dedication to find them, but the work and time pays off 10 fold.

Someone I admire once told me to focus on the critical few and forget the trivial many. When your selection says you care, you can then spend most of your time focussed on customer service. This means staff education, product knowledge and engagement, developing better hiring practices, improving the flow of the store, keeping the store clean and having truthful and informative signs on products throughout the store. This is one of the ‘critical few’ and is perhaps the one that delivers the most tangible and intangible positive results in your business.

Start to pare down the ‘me too’ items and replace them with ‘I love this and will stand behind it’ items and your business will be far more secure and fun to operate… no matter what happens with the Liquor Review.

Cheers
The DorkUnCorked

SAVE YOUR MONEY!

September 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

Dear Importers, Agents an Sales Reps;
Save your money!!!!

Most new product pitches that come across my desk are heavily leveraged against the tasting of the product. In BC this is ridiculously costly and doesn’t get nearly as many sales is it should and can.

Smart buyers understand that the taste of the product solves a couple problems, however these problems can only be solved if the business needs of the deal are met first. Tasting/Sampling only serves to provide staff education for those on the floor and to convince me, the buyer, that the product will sell more than once to a customer.

First things first is how does this product solve my business problems? Does this fill a hole in a price and margin segment? How seamless is distribution? Is it a year round proposition, seasonal or one time buy? Does it represent a category I’m lacking in? Do you have the codes necessary for our POS system to accept it?

Lastly what benefits does the consumer realize from this product/proposition. This is almost never answered and it is far more key to the success of the product than the taste.

Most pitches are laden with a long list of features. I call these meetings show up and throw up meetings. The presentation leaves it to me to assume what the benefits to me and the consumer are and this is where the presentation gets tripped up. It is better for the sales rep to answer objections to stated benefits than to argue the validity of a feature of the product.

Sampling should be treated like the subjects to buying a house. It is a condition of sale, but one of the last conditions that need to be met. Furthermore once met, the deal should be closed. So save your money and use sampling tactically.

Cheers

The Dork UnCorked

Paying For Unintended Consequences

June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

I started reading Jason Ripley’s study as the feasibility of privatization in BC. A couple of stats jumped out at me. The first was the number of transactions. He estimates about 38m transactions per year. The second was the value of health care costs that are not covered by current LDB income and are a direct result of irresponsible liquor consumption. I’m not clear, I will have to re-read the section, how he was able to state that $60m were not covered by the current net income of the LDB, regardless I might have an answer.

In the study he notes the positive effect that minimum pricing, if at the correct level, has on irresponsible consumption. He also notes on a number of occasions that problem consumption is attributed most at the low end of the price scale. Specifically the highest alcohol for the lowest price.

Here is the solution. The caveat is that it will require government to directly feed the income from this proposal to cover excess health care costs. Something, that up until now, they have been reluctant to do.

$60m divided by 38m is $1.58/ transaction. Apply this to every separate transaction and have the funds go directly to health care. This would be a flat charge that is applied to every transaction no matter the value.

I wonder if a study can ever be done on the unintended positive effects of moderate consumption.

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